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Tectonics: 50 years after the Revolution

By
Eldridge M. Moores
Eldridge M. Moores
Department of Geology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA
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M. Burak Yıkılmaz
M. Burak Yıkılmaz
Department of Geology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA
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Louise H. Kellogg
Louise H. Kellogg
Department of Geology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA
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Published:
September 01, 2013

The Plate Tectonic Revolution that transformed Earth science has occurred together with revolutions in imagery and planetary studies. Earth's outer layer (lithosphere: upper mantle and crust) comprises relatively rigid plates ranging in size from near-global to kilometer scale; boundaries can be sharp (a few kilometers wide to diffuse, hundreds of kilometers) and are reflected in earthquake distribution. Divergent, transform fault, and convergent (subduction) margins are present at all scales. Collisions can occur between several crustal types and at subduction zones of varying polarity. Modern plate processes and their geologic products permit inference of Earth's plate tectonic history in times before extant oceanic crust. Ophiolites provide an insight into the products and processes of oceanic crust formation. Ophiolite emplacement involves a tectonic process related to collision of crustal margins with subduction zones. The Earth's mantle comprises, from top to bottom, the lithosphere, asthenosphere, mesosphere, and a hot boundary layer. Plume-related magmatism may arise from bulges in the latter, which in turn may alternate with depressions caused by pronounced subduction, leading to assembly of supercontinents. Plate tectonic activity probably occurred on an early Archean, or even Hadean, Earth. Earth-like plate tectonic activity seems not to be present on other terrestrial planets, although strike-slip faulting is present in Mars's Valles Marineris. Possible extensional and compressional tectonics on Venus and an inferred unimodal hypsographic curve for early Earth suggest that Venus may be a modern analogue for a young Earth.

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GSA Special Papers

The Web of Geological Sciences: Advances, Impacts, and Interactions

Marion E. Bickford
Marion E. Bickford
Department of Earth Sciences, 204 Heroy Geology Laboratory, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244-1070, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
500
ISBN print:
9780813725000
Publication date:
September 01, 2013

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