Coupling of South American and African Plate Motion and Plate Deformation

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Science  02 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5347, pp. 60-63
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5347.60

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Although the African Plate's northeastward absolute motion slowed abruptly 30 million years ago, the South Atlantic's spreading velocity has remained roughly constant over the past 80 million years, thus requiring a simultaneous westward acceleration of the South American Plate. This plate velocity correlation occurs because the two plates are coupled to general mantle circulation. The deceleration of the African Plate, due to its collision with the Eurasian Plate, diverts mantle flow westward, increasing the net basal driving torque and westward velocity of the South American Plate. One result of South America's higher plate velocity is the increased cordilleran activity along its western edge, beginning at about 30 million years ago.

  • * Present address: Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA.

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