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Modern-style plate tectonics began in Neoproterozoic time; an alternative interpretation of Earth's tectonic history

Robert J. Stern
Modern-style plate tectonics began in Neoproterozoic time; an alternative interpretation of Earth's tectonic history (in When did plate tectonics begin on planet Earth?, Kent C. Condie (editor) and Victoria Pease (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2008) 440: 265-280

Abstract

Modern-style plate tectonics are mostly driven by the excess density of oceanic lithosphere sinking deeply in subduction zones and can be sustained as long as melt is produced at mid-ocean ridges. Among the silicate planets, the mechanism of plate tectonics is unique to Earth, indicating that special circumstances are required. Given that the potential temperature of Earth's mantle has decreased by several hundred degrees Celsius since Archean time, the density of oceanic lithosphere must have systematically increased, which has profound implications for the viability of plate tectonics through time. Two things must be done to advance our understanding of Earth's tectonic history: (1) uncritical uniformitarianism should be avoided; and (2) the geologic record must be thoughtfully and objectively interrogated. Theoretical considerations should motivate the exploration, but geologic evidence will provide the answers. The debate needs to address the criteria for identifying tectonic style in ancient rocks, whether this evidence is likely to be preserved, and what the record indicates. The most important criteria are the temporal distribution of ophiolites, blueschists, ultrahigh-pressure terranes, eclogites, paired metamorphic belts, passive margins, subduction-related batholiths, arc igneous rocks, isotopic evidence of recycling, and paleomagnetic constraints. This list of criteria should evolve; objective redefinitions and reviews of, especially, the eclogite paired metamorphic belt and subduction-related batholith records are needed. Also, the likely effects of major tectonic changes on other Earth systems should be considered, such as true polar wander, climate change, and biosphere changes. The modern episode of plate tectonics began in Neoproterozoic time, <1.0 Ga ago, with earlier alternating episodes of proto-plate tectonics (1.8-2.0 and 2.5-2.7 Ga); unstable stagnant-lid tectonics dominated the rest of Proterozoic time and an unknown part of Archean time.


ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Coden: GSAPAZ
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 440
Title: Modern-style plate tectonics began in Neoproterozoic time; an alternative interpretation of Earth's tectonic history
Title: When did plate tectonics begin on planet Earth?
Author(s): Stern, Robert J.
Author(s): Condie, Kent C.editor
Author(s): Pease, Victoriaeditor
Affiliation: University of Texas at Dallas, Geosciences Department, Richardson, TX, United States
Affiliation: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Socorro, NM, United States
Pages: 265-280
Published: 2008
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
Meeting name: Penrose Conference
Meeting location: Lander, WY, USA, United States
Meeting date: 20060613June 14-18, 2006
References: 116
Accession Number: 2008-124324
Categories: Solid-earth geophysics
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus.
Secondary Affiliation: Stockholm University, SWE, Sweden
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200848
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