Abstract

A calculation of Earth's ocean crustal budget for the past 150 m.y. reveals a 50% to 75% increase in ocean crust formation rate between 120 and 80 Ma. This "pulse" in ocean crust production is seen both in spreading-rate increases from ocean ridges and in the age distribution of oceanic plateaus. It is primarily a Pacific Ocean phenomenon with an abrupt onset, and peak production rates occurred between 120 and 100 Ma. The pulse decreased in intensity from 100 to 80 Ma, and at 80 Ma rates dropped significantly. There was a continued decrease from 80 to 30 Ma with a secondary peak near the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary at 65 Ma. For the past 30 m.y., ocean crust has formed at a nearly steady rate. Because the pulse is seen primarily in Pacific oceanic plateau and ridge production, and coincides with the long Cretaceous interval of normal magnetic polarity, I interpret it as a "superplume" that originated at about 125 Ma near the core/mantle boundary, rose by convection through the entire mantle, and erupted beneath the mid-Cretaceous Pacific basin. The present-day South Pacific "superswell" under Tahiti is probably the nearly exhausted remnant of the original upwelling. How this superplume stopped magnetic field reversals for 41 m.y. is a matter of speculation, but it probably involved significant alteration of the temperature structure at the core/mantle boundary and the convective behavior of the outer core.

You do not currently have access to this article.