What Is the African Blob? Mysterious Mass Slowly Rising Underneath Continent
What is the African blob? The Earth is a mysterious place, and the blob beneath Africa is the latest bizarre natural phenomenon to prove just that.
Scientists have remained baffled for years by two enormous land masses that are just sitting beneath Earth's surface, but one blob under Africa is slowly — and don't worry, we mean slowly — starting to make its way to the surface.
The two blob-like masses were discovered by scientists via seismic observations, according to Newsweek. Sitting between 400 and 1,600 miles below the surface in the lowermost mantle, they are known as large low-shear-velocity provinces (LLSVPs) and reportedly influence processes at the core as well as in the mantle.
Researchers Mingming Li and Qian Yuan from Arizona State University have studied the blobs extensively to try and determine what they are, with their findings published in the Nature Geoscience journal.
The blobs are suspected to be composed of recycled oceanic crust or iron-rich material.
According to research, the two blobs differ in terms of density, with the African LLSVP seemingly less dense, or less stable, than the one that sits below the Pacific Ocean.
The mass located under Africa "sits about 620 miles higher than the Pacific LLSVP," Newsweek reports. The African blob has a maximum height of about "990 to 1,100 miles," while its Pacific counterpart is between "430 and 500 miles high."
LLSVPs are thought to be linked to volcanism. The less stable African blob is believed to be a reason why the continent has experienced more supervolcano eruptions over the years compared to the Pacific.
"The Africa LLSVP may have been rising in recent geological time," ASU researcher Li told Newsweek. "This may explain the elevating surface topography and intense volcanism in eastern Africa."
"This instability can have a lot of implications for the surface tectonics, and also earthquakes and supervolcanic eruptions,” Yuan added. "Our combination of the analysis of seismic results and the geodynamic modeling provides new insights on the nature of the Earth’s largest structures in the deep interior and their interaction with the surrounding mantle."
And while the African blob is rising, Li told Newsweek it "would take about 50-100 millions of years for it to reach the surface" as it's currently rising at a "rate of around one to two centimeters per year."
"In fact, as the African rises, it may become cold and dense. It is not impossible for it to sink again when it becomes dense enough," Li added.
Despite numerous hours of research, scientists are still left scratching their heads trying to figure out what exactly caused the mysterious blobs in the first place.