Australian Geographic

ON THE MOVE

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The Australian continenta­l plate moves northwards at about 7cm a year, making it the Earth’s fastest-moving plate. Although the plate moves, the underlying mantle plume remains stationary (shown below), meaning it causes new volcanoes every few million years. The hotspot track was discovered in the 1970s, but no-one could explain the absence of volcanoes between Byrock, in NSW, and Buckland, in Queensland, until Associate Professor Rhodri Davies and his team realised the lithospher­e (the Earth’s outer surface) was more than 130km thick there – too thick for the plume’s heat to melt the rock above it.

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