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Published December 5, 2014 | public
Journal Article

Driving the Earth machine?


The asthenosphere—derived from the Greek asthenēs, meaning weak—is the uppermost part of Earth's mantle, right below the tectonic plates that make up the solid lithosphere. First proposed by Barrell 100 years ago (1), the asthenosphere has traditionally been viewed as a passive region that decouples the moving tectonic plates from the mantle and provides magmas to the global spreading ridge system. Recent studies suggest that the asthenosphere may play a more active role as the source of the heat and magma responsible for intraplate volcanoes. Furthermore, it may have a major impact on plate tectonics and the pattern of mantle flow.

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© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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