Abstract

Having discerned competition among vigorous plumes on the 108 year timescale, Tuzo Wilson suggested that plumes control plate behavior and are “the mainsprings of geological history”. Here we revisit that idea by discussing selected examples of plume–plate interaction and find that modern observational, instrumental, computational, and modeling capabilities are revealing a wonderful variety and complexity in plume–plate interaction. The degree to which plumes control plate behavior is poorly constrained. However, the examples we consider suggest complex interactions between plumes and plates that, during the past 70 million years, have led to separate episodes of extreme plate acceleration and near complete cessation of plate motion in the deep mantle reference frame. The recognition of contrasting convective behavior within two newly distinguished “Active Plume Heads”, both reaching to depths of ∼1200 km, one beneath Hawaii and the other between Iceland and Norway, represent new opportunities in studying plume–plate interaction. Wilson’s suggestion continues to inspire stimulating questions for future research.

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