In a Solar system of fiery, poisonous hellish landscapes, icy celestial bodies, and ballooning orbs of gas, Earth is the only planet inhabited by intelligent, oxygen-breathing life forms. And at the same time, we live on a very strange planet and its eccentricities make themselves felt. We offer “top ten” most unusual moments in the behavior of the Earth in 2019 according to the popular science portal Live Science:
1. Humans are messing up its wobble
Our planet does not just revolve around the Sun and around its own axis; it also sways as it rotates. It was found out that the people are the reason for this. The planet’s axis of rotation has shifted by a whopping 10.5 meters, and much of the shift is due to man-made global warming, which has been going on for more than a century. As the melting of glaciers (mostly in Greenland) and increasing sea-level rise and the lighter, ice-free continents rise as well and the planet’s mass gets redistributed. This, in turn, accelerates the rotation of the earth and shifts its axis. Of course, people are not the only cause of this phenomenon. The slow shift of the earth’s crust into the mantle is responsible for one third of the changes.
2. The earth’s magnetic field continues to wander
The wayward magnetic field of the Earth simply cannot stay in one place. The magnetic North pole continues to move from its former location across the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia. And this movement, which has been going on for two decades, is happening at an extreme speed – 55 kilometers per year.
The earth’s magnetic field is generated by the mysterious churning of the planet’s iron core, and for some reason unknown to science, it has weakened in recent years, which caused the magnetic North to drift.
Current navigation systems rely on magnetic north and will have to be recalibrated as the poles continue to wander. For example, some airports have already renamed some of their runways, whose names are oriented to compass directions.
3. The cave of crystals
The planet decided to create a massive underground cave of pure crystals, which in the scientific terms is called geode. These are usually small cavities in sedimentary or volcanic rocks, partially or completely filled with mineral substance.
Geode is formed when water seeps into the hollow rock. Water and minerals in the rock enter into a chemical reaction that leads to the formation of crystals.
The world’s largest Pulpi geode is located in Spain. The volume of the ovoid cavity, located at a depth of about 50 meters, is about 11 cubic meters.
This year, scientists have solved the mystery of the origin of Pulpi. This geological miracle occurred at least 60,000 years ago, when the Mediterranean sea almost drained about 5.5 million years ago.
4. Diamond in diamond
Earth, like every female, loves jewelry. Not satisfying with the design of ordinary precious stones, our planet has created a Russian matryoshka of minerals. The diamond inside the diamond was found earlier this year in one of the mines in Yakutia.
But how did this ultra-rare double diamond form? It is likely that the inner tiny diamond formed first, and the outer one appeared as the polycrystalline diamond substance solidified. The unique natural diamond is estimated to be 800 million years old and weighs 0.62 carats.
5. Unknown mineral
Another diamond was discovered in South Africa. It also contains a hidden surprise – an unidentified mineral. Dark green stone was found in a diamond mine Koffiefontein. The discoverers named the mineral goldschmidtite, after famed geologist Victor Moritz Goldschmidt.
But where did this grain of goldschmidtite come from? It turns out that the diamond was formed in the molten middle layer of the Earth’s mantle. What’s so unusual is the composition of the newly discovered mineral: the rock is full of niobium and rare earth elements – lanthanum and cerium. This means that something strange must have happened to combine these rare elements, since the mantle is mostly made up of more common elements such as magnesium and iron.
6. Fancy sunset
In July of this year, a North Carolina resident photographed a magnificent split sunset. And even if the picture looks like not very good work in photoshop, the picture is quite real. The strange effect of dividing the celestial landscape was caused by a cloud sitting low on the horizon on the left-hand side. The setting sun hit the cloud, which cast a shadow and prevented the sun’s light from reaching the smaller clouds below their larger counterpart. On the right-hand side, no such cloud blocks the fiery light of the sunset, hence its more intense hue.
7. A lost continent lies beneath Europe lies
It turns out that an entire continent, known as the Greater Adria, is buried under Europe. The ancient continent split off from the giant continent of Gondwana, which once united modern Africa, Antarctica, South America, Australia and other large land masses. This year, researchers reconstructed the most accurate model of this lost continent by studying ancient rocks from Greater Adria, which are scattered in the bowels of present-day Europe.
Greater Adria would not be a continuous continental plateau, but rather a chain of islands, scientists say. The demise of Adria began about 100-120 million years ago, and the now lost continent crashed into Europe and began to sink under it. The descendants of the Greater Adria in the form of rocks hidden in the Alpine mountains.
8. The sudden outbreak of the volcano
Earth can be dangerously unpredictable. In early December, the White Island volcano in New Zealand suddenly erupted, catching tourists by surprise.
There was no sign of this rapid eruption. According to the local geological risk monitoring system, the lava discharge occurred impulsively.
The White Island volcano is prone to such unpredictable eruptions, because its shallow magma chamber, holding superheated, pressurized water, heats the surrounding rocks. Myriads of tiny shifts – changes in the level of nearby lakes or weak earthquakes, weaken the pressure on the water. As a result, water vapor rapidly expands in volume and throws streams of wet ash into the air.
9. The Earth ruptured
This summer, Southern California, USA, was shaken by several biggest tremors in the last decade, activating a fault in the earth’s crust. Seismic events, called the “Ridgecrest earthquake swarm,” began on July 4, 2019. Then there was a preliminary earthquake with a force of 6.4 points, the main quake with a magnitude of 7.1 points happened more than a day later.
Earthquakes created a massive system of small, parallel and perpendicular ruptures, and this is an extremely rare phenomenon, according to geologists.
10. In California, the earth’s fault has woken up
Two July earthquakes in Southern California had even more severe consequences.
The earthquakes awoke the Garlock fault, a so-called “quiet” geological shift 250 km long on the northern edge of the Mojave desert that has not shown signs of life in the past five centuries. The Garlock fault is capable of producing a magnitude 7.8 temblor.
The researchers were confused by the following fact – the Southern California earthquakes showed that faults can “link up” in a network to spread powerful quakes. Previously, seismologists believed that slippage usually occurred on only a single fault and that the maximum possible quake magnitude was determined by the length of that slip boundary.
However, it is now obvious that the faults can intersect, challenging to predict all possible quakes.