Abstract

Seismic-velocity models for Archean and Proterozoic provinces throughout the world are analyzed. The thickness of the crust in Archean provinces is generally found to be about 35 km (except at collisional boundaries), whereas Proterozoic crust has a significantly greater thickness of about 45 km and has a substantially thicker high-velocity (>7.0 km/s) layer at the base. We consider two models that may explain these differences. The first model attributes the difference to a change in the composition of the upper mantle. The higher temperatures in the Archean mantle led to the eruption of komatiitic lavas, resulting in an ultradepleted lithosphere unable to produce significant volumes of basaltic melt. Proterozoic crust developed above fertile mantle, and subsequent partial melting resulted in basaltic underplating and crustal inflation. In the second model, convection in the hot Archean mantle is considered to have been too turbulent to sustain stable long-lived subduction zones. By the Proterozoic the mantle had cooled sufficiently for substantial island and continental arcs to be constructed, and the high-velocity basal layer was formed by basaltic underplating.

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