Sedimentary Basins Feeling the Heat from Below

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Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 769-770
DOI: 10.1126/science.1194560

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Sea-level changes through Earth's history have profoundly affected the surface environment, resulting in alternating advances and retreats of the sea, called transgressions and regressions. An understanding of the mechanisms behind these major shifts in coastlines, and the associated patterns of sediment deposition and erosion over different time scales, is central to unraveling Earth's tectonic and climate history. On page 827 of this issue, Petersen et al. (1) report results from geodynamic modeling that give a potentially radical shift in concept, namely that oscillations in sedimentary sequences over time periods from 2 to 20 million years may be driven by regional patterns of small-scale convection in the mantle.