Plate tectonics and the Archean Earth

Michael Brown*, Tim Johnson, Nicholas J. Gardiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

If we accept that a critical condition for plate tectonics is the creation and maintenance of a global network of narrow boundaries separating multiple plates, then to argue for plate tectonics during the Archean requires more than a local record of subduction. A case is made for plate tectonics back to the early Paleoproterozoic, when a cycle of breakup and collision led to formation of the supercontinent Columbia, and bimodal metamorphism is registered globally. Before this, less preserved crust and survivorship bias become greater concerns, and the geological record may yield only a lower limit on the emergence of plate tectonics. Higher mantle temperature in the Archean precluded or limited stable subduction, requiring a transition to plate tectonics from another tectonic mode. This transition is recorded by changes in geochemical proxies and interpreted based on numerical modeling. Improved understanding of the secular evolution of temperature and water in the mantle is a key target for future research. Higher mantle temperature in the Archean precluded or limited stable subduction, requiring a transition to plate tectonics from another tectonic mode. Plate tectonics can be demonstrated on Earth since the early Paleoproterozoic (since c. 2.2 Ga), but before the Proterozoic Earth's tectonic mode remains ambiguous. The Mesoarchean to early Paleoproterozoic (3.2-2.3 Ga) represents a period of transition from an early tectonic mode (stagnant or sluggish lid) to plate tectonics. The development of a global network of narrow boundaries separating multiple plates could have been kick-started by plume-induced subduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-320
Number of pages30
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Volume48
Early online date17 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • Geochemistry
  • Mantle TP
  • Metamorphism
  • Plume
  • Subduction
  • Tectonic mode

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