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Scientists issue warning over one of the biggest countries in the world 'splitting in two'
Featured Image Credit: titoOnz/Getty / DEA / D'ARCO EDITORI/De Agostini via Getty Images

Scientists issue warning over one of the biggest countries in the world 'splitting in two'

A new study warns against one issue that could arise

A warning has been issued about the potential issues that could happen if one of the biggest countries in the world splits in two.

The Himalayan mountains are a vast area that covers five countries: India, Pakistan, Nepal, China, and Bhutan.

The mountains began forming over 50 million years ago and continue to today as the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates continue to collide, pushing the peaks slightly higher each year.

However, according to a 2023 study by a team of geophysicists, significant tectonic movement beneath the mountain range could split one of the countries in two.

The study was titled Slab tearing and delamination of the Indian lithospheric mantle during flat-slab subduction, southeast Tibet and was presented at the American Geophysical Union conference in December.

The study - led by Lin Liu, Danian Shi, Simon L Klemperer et al. - started by investigating the levels of helium present in the Tibetan springs and found a new development surrounding the underneath plates.

Helium levels were found to be higher in southern Tibet than in northern Tibet.

A team of geophysicists have now presented a new study about the possibility of significant tectonic movement beneath the Himalayan mountains.
LAKPA SHERPA/AFP via Getty Images

Using '3D S-wave receiver-functions', one of the images showed evidence of the top and lower slabs of the Indian Plate appearing to detach.

This led to the discovery that the two plates appear to be 'underplating' or 'subducting' beneath' a mantle wedge. '

"Our 3D S-wave receiver-functions newly reveal orogon-perpendicular tearing or warping of the Indian Plate." the study reads.

"Our SRFs objectively map depths to distrinct Indian and Tibetan lithosphere-asthenosphere boundaries across a substantial region of south-eastern Tibet.

"The inferred boundary between the two lithospheres is corroborated by more subjective mapping of changing SWS parameters, and by independent interpretations of the mantle suture from mantle degassing patterns and the northern limit of sub-Moho earthquakes.

The study focuses on the Indian tectonic plate.
DEA / D'ARCO EDITORI/De Agostini via Getty Images

"The southern limit of Tibetan lithosphere and subjacent asthenosphere is at 31°N west of 90°E but steps south by >300 km to ~28°N east of 92°E likely representing a slab tear."

This activity means the Indian plate would peel into two instead of break.

It has also identified a potential heightened risk of earthquakes along the plate boundary.

It has also been suggested the upper part could pop up and cause Tibet to rise higher, leading the lower half to sink further into the mantle.

Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geodynamicist at Utrecht University, spoke to Science about the study's potential impact.

"We didn't know continents could behave this way and that is, for solid earth science, pretty fundamental," he said.

Geodynamicist Fabio Capitanio at Monash University also reiterated that the study had not yet been peer-reviewed, but it was the type of work that needed more investigation.

Topics: Science, World News, News