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Geology and Geochemistry

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Published:
January 01, 2015

Abstract

How and when continents grew and plate tectonics started on Earth remain poorly constrained. Most researchers apply the modern plate tectonic paradigm to problems of ancient crustal formation, but these are unsatisfactory because diagnostic criteria and actualistic plate configurations are lacking. Here, we show that 3.5–3.2 Ga continental nuclei in the Pilbara Craton, Australia, and the eastern Kaapvaal Craton, southern Africa, formed as thick volcanic plateaux built on a substrate of older continental lithosphere and did not accrete through horizontal tectonic processes. These nuclei survived because of the contemporaneous development of buoyant, non-subductable mantle roots. This plateau-type of Archean continental crust is distinct from, but complementary to, Archean gneiss terranes formed over shallowly dipping zones of intraoceanic underplating (proto-subduction) on a vigorously convecting early Earth with smaller plates and primitive plate tectonics.

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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Continent Formation Through Time

N. M. W. Roberts
N. M. W. Roberts
NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, UK
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M. Van Kranendonk
M. Van Kranendonk
University of New South Wales, Australia
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S. Parman
S. Parman
Brown University, USA
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S. Shirey
S. Shirey
Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA
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P. D. Clift
P. D. Clift
Louisiana State University, USA
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Geological Society of London
Volume
389
ISBN electronic:
9781862396654
Publication date:
January 01, 2015

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