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Intermittent Plate Tectonics?

Science  04 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5859, pp. 85-88
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148397

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Abstract

Although it is commonly assumed that subduction has operated continuously on Earth without interruption, subduction zones are routinely terminated by ocean closure and supercontinent assembly. Under certain circumstances, this could lead to a dramatic loss of subduction, globally. Closure of a Pacific-type basin, for example, would eliminate most subduction, unless this loss were compensated for by comparable subduction initiation elsewhere. Given the evidence for Pacific-type closure in Earth's past, the absence of a direct mechanism for termination/initiation compensation, and recent data supporting a minimum in subduction flux in the Mesoproterozoic, we hypothesize that dramatic reductions or temporary cessations of subduction have occurred in Earth's history. Such deviations in the continuity of plate tectonics have important consequences for Earth's thermal and continental evolution.

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