Abstract

Continents episodically cluster together into a supercontinent, eventually breaking up with intense magmatic activity supposedly caused by mantle plumes (Morgan, 1983; Richards et al., 1989; Condie, 2004). The breakup of Pangea, the last supercontinent, was accompanied by the emplacement of the largest known continental flood basalt, the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, which caused massive extinctions at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary (Marzoli et al., 1999). However, there is little support for a plume origin for this catastrophic event (McHone, 2000). On the basis of convection modeling in an internally heated mantle, this paper shows that continental aggregation promotes large-scale melting without requiring the involvement of plumes. When only internal heat sources in the mantle are considered, the formation of a supercontinent causes the enlargement of flow wavelength and a subcontinental increase in temperature as large as 100 °C. This temperature increase may lead to large-scale melting without the involvement of plumes. Our results suggest the existence of two distinct types of continental flood basalts, caused by plume or by mantle global warming.

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