Martina Ulvrova

Earth scientist @mulvr

January, 2019

Our paper on continental break-up is out in GRL

While the continents are spread out across the Earth at present day, we know that at various times in Earth's history these same continents were assembled together in larger “supercontinents”. These supercontinents eventually fragment by a process called continental rifting, but certain aspects of the kinematic evolution of this process remained elusive so far. We created a series of sophisticated computer simulations of mantle convection in which continental rifts emerge naturally when the forces acting on assembled continents become large enough to break them apart. The simulations show that continental breakup involves a positive feedback loop, where the faster the continents move apart, the more quickly the connection between them weakens—similar to a rope that is stretched until it yields and eventually snaps. This speed‐up of the continents can trigger the formation of new plate boundaries elsewhere on Earth, even at large distance to the rift. We also find that the continents often slow down again once the continents are separated and a new ocean basin is formed. Read the full paper here.

April 1, 2018

Starting working at ETH