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When did plate tectonics begin? Evidence from the geologic record

Kent C Condie
Kent C Condie
Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, Socorro, New Mexico 87801, USA
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Alfred Kröner
Alfred Kröner
Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany
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January 2008

Modern-style plate tectonics can be tracked into the geologic past with petrotectonic assemblages and other platetectonic indicators. These indicators suggest that modern plate tectonics were operational, at least in some places on the planet, by 3.0 Ga, or even earlier, and that they became widespread by 2.7 Ga. The scarcity of complete ophiolites before 1 Ga may be explained by thicker oceanic crust and preservation of only the upper, basaltic unit. The apparent absence of blueschists and ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks before ca. 1 Ga may reflect steeper subduction geotherms and slower rates of uplift at convergent margins. It is unlikely that plate tectonics began on Earth as a single global “event” at a distinct time, but rather it is probable that it began locally and progressively became more widespread from the early to the late Archean.

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GSA Special Papers

When Did Plate Tectonics Begin on Planet Earth?

Edited by
Kent C. Condie
Kent C. Condie
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Victoria Pease
Victoria Pease
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Geological Society of America
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