New England’s calm exterior harbors a hot, dynamic mantle, study says

Tectonically speaking, New England is pretty calm. But a region of New Hampshire and Vermont is the exception to the rule, say geologists from Yale and Rutgers.
An aerial view of a small New England town in autumn.


Beneath its rugged, rocky exterior, New England is wicked hot and on the move, a new study says.

Geophysicists at Yale and Rutgers have found a localized region of New England’s upper mantle, centered beneath Vermont and New Hampshire, that is unusually hot and flowing upwards. The findings suggest that dynamic geologic processes are taking place beneath no-nonsense New England — despite the fact that the region has been tectonically quiet for millions of years.

The findings were published Nov. 29 in the online edition of the journal Geology.

This is notable because it has been 200 million years since this region was located on a plate boundary and experienced a major plate tectonic event,” said co-author Maureen Long, a Yale professor of geology and geophysics.

The warmer and dynamic mantle, also called a thermal upwelling, appears to have formed recently in geological terms, the researchers said, since there are no volcanic surface features in the region to indicate long-term activity. The researchers arrived at their findings by studying seismic waves from distant earthquakes, as the waves passed through New England.

The first author of the paper is Vadim Levin of Rutgers University. Additional co-authors are Peter Skryzalin and Yiran Li of Rutgers, and Ivette López of Yale, whose senior thesis research contributed to the study.

The study may be viewed here.

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