Australia Is Not As Down Under As You Think

Admin | Published 2016-09-29 23:07
Turns out, Australia isn’t where you think it is. Did you know that the continent has had changed its position in the world map four times in the past 50 years? Australia just happened to be located on one of the world’s fastest moving tectonic plates which travel 6.9cm north per year. This is almost three times as fast as the plate where the US is located (travels around 2.5cm per year). The tectonic plates move about as fast as the nails on your fingers grow which is around 5 to 10cm per year, according to Dr. Lucia Perez-Diaz from the Royal Holloway University’s Department of Earth Sciences. Dr. Perez-Diaz told Business Insider, "The reason why different plates move at different speeds is relatively simple: each plate is different. For each plate, its rate of motion will be determined by a balance between the forces trying to make it move and those resisting that motion." The North American plate moves slowly due to the resistance imposed by the Pacific plate being pushed underneath it. The Indo-Australian plate on the other hand is the entire opposite since it is being shoved north by the Antarctic plate and is pulled under Pacific and Eurasian plates in the same direction. "In this case, the forces acting at opposite sides of the Australian plate do so in the same direction, helping the plate travel faster," Dr. Perez-Diaz added.   [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1888"] Australian Plate map --- commons.wikimedia.org[/caption]   Though a few centimeters may sound like a small distance but the moving of the plates can cause problems for GPS and satnav systems since maps and models of the planet can become out of date. A few centimeters of changes can result to longitudes and latitudes won’t line up with the GPS coordinates anymore. The next adjustment will be due at the end of the year and it will be 1.5 meters (don’t fret, it won’t throw off the GPS at this time yet). Perez-Diaz said, “GPS recalibration may become a routine task in some parts of the world, but one that, in my view, is unlikely to have a great impact in most people's everyday life. Most of us won't live long enough or own the same GPS device for a long enough period to have to worry about adjusting it to account for how much the plate we are standing on has moved."  
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