ETH Zurich scientists have for the first time succeeded in realistically simulating how an oceanic plate sinks of its own accord under an adjacent plate. At the same time they showed why only one of the plates rather than both subducts into the Earth’s mantle, and how this process affects the dynamics of the Earth’s interior.
Computer simulation of plate tectonics and the circulation of hot rock material in the Earth’s mantle. The visible features include cold plates (blue/green) subducting down unilaterally from the surface of the Earth into the Earth’s mantle and hot rock material (red) rising up from deeper regions of the mantle. (Image: Tackley Research Group / ETH Zurich)