In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science
CONTAINS OPEN ACCESS
This unusual book, published to honor the late iconoclast and geologist extraordinaire Warren Bell Hamilton, comprises a diverse, cross-disciplinary collection of bold new ideas in Earth and planetary science. Some chapters audaciously point out all-too-obvious deficits in prevailing theories. Other ideas are embryonic and in need of testing and still others are downright outrageous. Some are doubtless right and others likely wrong. See if you can tell which is which. See if your students can tell which is which. This unique book is a rich resource for researchers at all levels looking for interesting, unusual, and off-beat ideas to investigate or set as student projects.
Links of planetary energetics to moon size, orbit, and planet spin: A new mechanism for plate tectonics
†E.M. Criss prepared this article independent of his employment and without use of information, resources, or other support from Panasonic Avionics Corporation.
Published:May 03, 2022
Anne M. Hofmeister*, Robert E. Criss, Everett M. Criss†, 2022. "Links of planetary energetics to moon size, orbit, and planet spin: A new mechanism for plate tectonics", In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science, Gillian R. Foulger, Lawrence C. Hamilton, Donna M. Jurdy, Carol A. Stein, Keith A. Howard, Seth Stein
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Lateral accelerations require lateral forces. We propose that force imbalances in the unique Earth-Moon-Sun system cause large-scale, cooperative tectonic motions. The solar gravitational pull on the Moon, being 2.2× terrestrial pull, causes lunar drift, orbital elongation, and an ~1000 km radial monthly excursion of the Earth-Moon barycenter inside Earth’s mantle. Earth’s spin superimposes an approximately longitudinal 24 h circuit of the barycenter. Because the oscillating barycenter lies 3500–5500 km from the geocenter, Earth’s tangential orbital acceleration and solar pull are imbalanced. Near-surface motions are enabled by a weak low-velocity zone underlying the cold, brittle lithosphere: The thermal states of both layers result from leakage of Earth’s internal radiogenic heat to space. Concomitantly, stress induced by spin cracks the lithosphere in a classic X-pattern, creating mid-ocean ridges and plate segments. The inertial response of our high-spin planet with its low-velocity zone is ~10 cm yr–1 westward drift of the entire lithosphere, which largely dictates plate motions. The thermal profile causes sinking plates to thin and disappear by depths of ~200–660 km, depending on angle and speed. Cyclical stresses are effective agents of failure, thereby adding asymmetry to plate motions. A comparison of rocky planets shows that the presence and longevity of volcanism and tectonism depend on the particular combination of moon size, moon orbital orientation, proximity to the Sun, and rates of body spin and cooling. Earth is the only rocky planet with all the factors needed for plate tectonics.