Geophysics: The heat is on

    Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2008.03.031 (2008)

    Credit: C. DARKIN/SPL

    A planet's interior affects its climate through volcanoes spewing out greenhouse gases. Conversely, the climate can also affect the interior, according to calculations by Adrian Lenardic, of Rice University in Houston, Texas, and his co-workers.

    They worked out that temperature increases at a terrestrial planet's surface could penetrate deep into the planet, rendering its mantle less viscous and eventually shutting down the movement of tectonic plates.

    For a planet such as Earth, a sustained rise of 100 kelvin over a 10-million to 100-million-year timescale could be enough to destablize plate tectonics. The authors suggest that the carbon dioxide blanket in Venus's atmosphere (artist's impression, pictured) might help to explain why it appears to have a single, static plate.

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    Geophysics: The heat is on. Nature 453, 567 (2008).

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