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Faster seafloor spreading and lithosphere production during the mid-Cenozoic

Clinton P. Conrad and Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni
Faster seafloor spreading and lithosphere production during the mid-Cenozoic
Geology (Boulder) (January 2007) 35 (1): 29-32


Concurrent changes in seawater chemistry, sea level, and climate since the mid-Cretaceous are thought to result from an ongoing decrease in the global rate of lithosphere production at ridges. The present-day area distribution of seafloor ages, however, is most easily explained if lithosphere production rates were nearly constant during the past 180 m.y. We examined spatial gradients of present-day seafloor ages and inferred ages for the subducted Farallon plate to construct a history of spreading rates in each major ocean basin since ca. 140 Ma, revealing dramatic Cenozoic events. Globally, seafloor spreading rates increased by approximately 20% during the early Cenozoic due to an increase in plate speeds in the Pacific basin. Since then, subduction of the fast-spreading Pacific-Farallon ridge system has led to a 12% decrease in average global spreading rate and an 18% or more decrease in the total rate of lithosphere production by the most conservative estimates. These rapid changes during the Cenozoic defy models of steady-state seafloor formation, and demonstrate the time-dependent and evolving nature of plate tectonics on Earth.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 35
Serial Issue: 1
Title: Faster seafloor spreading and lithosphere production during the mid-Cenozoic
Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Baltimore, MD, United States
Pages: 29-32
Published: 200701
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 15
Accession Number: 2007-011014
Categories: Solid-earth geophysics
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sketch map
Secondary Affiliation: University of Michigan, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 200707
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