How Earth’s continents became twisted and contorted over millions of years

Dietmar Muller, Maria Seton and Sabin Zahirovic published an article in The Conversation on How Earth’s continents became twisted and contorted over millions of years based on their recently published paper in Tectonics. Classical plate tectonic theory was developed in the 1960s. It proposed that the outer layer of our planet is made up of a small number of rigid … Read more…

Tectonic evolution and deep mantle structure of the eastern Tethys since the latest Jurassic

Sabin Zahirovic, Kara J. Matthews, Nicolas Flament, R. Dietmar Müller, Kevin C. Hill, Maria Seton, Michael Gurnis Earth-Science Reviews Citation: Zahirovic, S., Matthews, K.J., Flament, N., Müller, R.D., Hill, K.C., Seton, M. and Gurnis, M., 2016, Tectonic evolution and deep mantle structure of the eastern Tethys since the latest Jurassic, Earth Science Reviews, 162, 293-337. The … Read more…

GPlates 2.1 software and data sets

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GPlates 1.5 PromoGPlates is a free desktop software for the interactive visualisation of plate-tectonics. The compilation and documentation of GPlates 2.1 data was primarily funded by AuScope National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS).

GPlates is developed by an international team of scientists and professional software developers at the EarthByte Project (part of AuScope) at the University of Sydney, the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) at CalTech, the Geodynamics team at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) and the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED) at the University of Oslo. … Read more…

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Predicting Sediment Thickness on Vanished Ocean Crust Since 200 Ma

Citation: Dutkiewicz, A., Müller, R.D., Wang, X., O’Callaghan, S., Cannon, J., Wright, N.M., 2017. Predicting sediment thickness on vanished ocean crust since 200 Ma. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 18, 4586–4603. Tracing sedimentation through time on existing and vanished seafloor is imperative for constraining long-term eustasy and for calculating volumes of subducted deep-sea sediments that contribute to global … Read more…

Improving global paleogeography since the late Paleozoic using paleobiology

Author List: Wenchao Cao, Sabin Zahirovic, Nicolas Flament, Simon Williams, Jan Golonka, Dietmar Müller Citation: Cao, W., Zahirovic, S., Flament, N., Williams, S., Golonka, J., and Müller, R. D., 2017, Improving global paleogeography since the late Paleozoic using paleobiology: Biogeosciences, v. 14, no. 23, p. 5425-5439. Paleogeographic maps, linked to plate tectonic reconstructions, are key components required for climate models … Read more…

Kinematic constraints on the Rodinia to Gondwana transition

Author List: Andrew Merdith, Simon Williams, Dietmar Müller & Alan Collins. Citation: Merdith, Andrew & Williams, Simon & Müller, Dietmar & Collins, Alan. (2017). Kinematic constraints on the Rodinia-Gondwana transition. Precambrian Research. 299. . 10.1016/j.precamres.2017.07.013. Abstract: Earth’s plate tectonic history during the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea is well constrained from the seafloor spreading record, but evolving plate configurations during … Read more…

Tectonic speed limits from plate kinematic reconstructions

Abstract The motion of plates and continents on the planet’s surface are a manifestation of long-term mantle convection and plate tectonics. Present-day plate velocities provide a snapshot of this ongoing process, and have been used to infer controlling factors on the speeds of plates and continents. However, present-day velocities do not capture plate behaviour over … Read more…

Dynamic topography of passive continental margins and their hinterlands since the Cretaceous

Author List: Dietmar Müller, Rakib Hassan, Michael Garnis, Nicolas Flament, Simon Williams. Citation: Müller, Dietmar & Hassan, Rakib & Gurnis, M & Flament, Nicolas & Williams, Simon. (2017). Dynamic topography of passive continental margins and their hinterlands since the Cretaceous. Gondwana Research. . 10.1016/j.gr.2017.04.028. Abstract: Even though it is well accepted that the Earth’s surface topography has been … Read more…

A full-plate global reconstruction of the Neoproterozoic

Author List:  Andrew Merdith, Alan Collins, Simon Williams, Sergei Pisarevsky, John Foden, Donnelly Archibald, Morgan Blades, Brandon Alessio, Sheree Armistead, Diana Plavsa, Chris Clark, Dietmar Müller Citation: Merdith, Andrew & Collins, Alan & Williams, Simon & Pisarevsky, Sergei & Foden, John & Archibald, Donnelly & Blades, Morgan & Alessio, Brandon & Armistead, Sheree & Plavsa, Diana & Clark, Chris … Read more…

Global plate boundary evolution and kinematics since the late Paleozoic

Author List: Kara Matthews, Kayla Maloney, Sabin Zahirovic, Simon Williams, Maria Seton and Dietmar Müller. Citation: Matthews, K.J., Maloney, K.T., Zahirovic, S., Williams, S.E., Seton, M., and Müller, R.D. (2016). Global plate boundary evolution and kinematics since the late Paleozoic, Global and Planetary Change, 146, 226-250. Abstract: Many aspects of deep-time Earth System models, including mantle convection, paleoclimatology, paleobiogeography and the deep … Read more…

GPlates 2.0 software and data sets

GPlates 1.5 PromoGPlates is a free desktop software for the interactive visualisation of plate-tectonics. The compilation and documentation of GPlates 2.0 data was primarily funded by AuScope National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS).

GPlates is developed by an international team of scientists and professional software developers at the EarthByte Project (part of AuScope) at the University of Sydney, the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) at CalTech, the Geodynamics team at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) and the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED) at the University of Oslo.  … Read more…

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Ocean Basin Evolution and Global-Scale Plate Reorganization Events Since Pangea Breakup

Author List: Dietmar Müller, Maria Seton, Sabin Zahirovic, Simon Williams, Kara Matthews, Nicky Wright, Grace Shephard, Kayla Maloney, Nicholas Barnett-Moore, Maral Hosseinpour, Dan Bower and John Cannon. Citation: Müller, R.D., Seton, M., Zahirovic, S., Williams, S.E., Matthews, K.J., Wright, N.M., Shephard, G.E., Maloney, K.T., Barnett-Moore, N., Hosseinpour, M., Bower, D.J., & Cannon, J. (2016). Ocean Basin Evolution and … Read more…

Ocean basin evolution and global-scale plate reorganization events since Pangea breakup

Seafloor ages from Müller et al.

Seafloor ages from Müller et al.Citation
Müller R.D., Seton, M., Zahirovic, S., Williams, S.E., Matthews, K.J., Wright, N.M., Shephard, G.E., Maloney, K.T., Barnett-Moore, N., Hosseinpour, M., Bower, D.J., Cannon, J., 2016. Ocean basin evolution and global-scale plate reorganization events since Pangea breakup, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol 44, 107-138. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-060115-012211.

Abstract
We present a revised global plate motion model with continuously closing plate boundaries ranging from the Triassic at 230 Ma to the present day, assess differences between alternative absolute plate motion models, and review global tectonic events. Relatively high mean absolute plate motion rates around 9–10 cm yr-1 between 140 and 120 Ma may be related to transient plate motion accelerations driven by the successive emplacement of a sequence of large igneous provinces during that time. … Read more…

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A tectonic model reconciling evidence for the collisions between India, Eurasia and intra-oceanic arcs of the central-eastern Tethys

Gibbons etal AgeGrid Vels MagPicks v3 0175Citation
Gibbons, A., Zahirovic, S., Muller, R.D., Whittaker, J., and Yatheesh, V. 2015. A tectonic model reconciling evidence for the collisions between India, Eurasia and intra-oceanic arcs of the central-eastern Tethys. Gondwana Research FOCUS, doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2015.01.001.

Summary
Despite several decades of investigations, inferences on the timing and nature of collisions along the Mesozoic–Cenozoic Eurasian margin remain controversial. We assimilate geological and geophysical evidence into a plate tectonic model for the India–Eurasia collision that includes continuously– … Read more…

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Supplementary resources for "Absolute plate motions since 130 Ma constrained by subduction zone kinematics"

Williams et al 2015 figure 3Citation
Williams, S., Flament, N., Müller, R. D., & Butterworth, N. (2015). Absolute plate motions since 130 Ma constrained by subduction zone kinematics. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 418, 66-77. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.02.026.

Summary
The supplementary data set comprise plate reconstructions from 130 Ma to present-day, designed to be used within the open-source reconstruction software GPlates.

There are eight sets of reconstructions. In each case, the relative plate motion (RPM) model is unchanged; the differences lie in the absolute plate motion (APM) model. This is expressed in the rotation file as the finite poles of rotation that describe motion of Africa relative to the Earth’s spin-axis. These files were the basis of the results presented in the EPSL paper.  … Read more…

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Supplementary resources for “Absolute plate motions since 130 Ma constrained by subduction zone kinematics”

Williams et al 2015 figure 3Citation
Williams, S., Flament, N., Müller, R. D., & Butterworth, N. (2015). Absolute plate motions since 130 Ma constrained by subduction zone kinematics. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 418, 66-77. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.02.026.

Summary
The supplementary data set comprise plate reconstructions from 130 Ma to present-day, designed to be used within the open-source reconstruction software GPlates.

There are eight sets of reconstructions. In each case, the relative plate motion (RPM) model is unchanged; the differences lie in the absolute plate motion (APM) model. This is expressed in the rotation file as the finite poles of rotation that describe motion of Africa relative to the Earth’s spin-axis. These files were the basis of the results presented in the EPSL paper.  … Read more…

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Post-Jurassic tectonic evolution of southeast Asia from Zahirovic et al. (2014)

Asia Zahirovic 20maCitation
Zahirovic, S., Seton, M., and Müller, R. D., (2014). The Cretaceous and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of Southeast Asia: Solid Earth (EGU).

Summary
Tectonic reconstructions of Southeast Asia have given rise to numerous controversies that include the accretionary history of Sundaland and the enigmatic tectonic origin of the Proto South China Sea. We assimilate a diversity of geological and geophysical observations into a new regional plate model, coupled to a global model, to address these debates.

Our approach takes into account terrane suturing and accretion histories, the location of subducted slabs imaged in mantle tomography in order to constrain the evolution of regional subduction zones, as well as plausible absolute and relative plate velocities and tectonic driving mechanisms. … Read more…

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Topographic asymmetry of the South Atlantic from global models of mantle flow and lithospheric stretching

Flament et al EPSL 2014 - FigureCitation
Flament, N., Gurnis, M., Williams, S., Seton, M., Skogseid, J., Heine, C., & Müller, R. D. (2014). Topographic asymmetry of the South Atlantic from global models of mantle flow and lithospheric stretching. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 387, 107-119. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2013.11.017.

Abstract
The relief of the South Atlantic is characterized by elevated passive continental margins along southern Africa and eastern Brazil, and by the bathymetric asymmetry of the southern oceanic basin where the western flank is much deeper than the eastern flank. We investigate the origin of these topographic features in the present and over time since the Jurassic with a model of global mantle flow and lithospheric deformation. The model progressively assimilates plate kinematics, plate boundaries and lithospheric age derived from global tectonic reconstructions with deforming plates, and predicts the evolution of mantle temperature, continental crustal thickness, long-wavelength dynamic topography, and isostatic topography. … Read more…

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The breakup of east Gondwana: assimilating constraints from Cretaceous ocean basins around India into a best-fit tectonic model, Gibbons et al. (2013)

Citation
Gibbons, A., Whittaker, J. and R. Dietmar Müller, (2013), The break up of East Gondwana: assimilating constraints from Cretaceous ocean basins around India into a best-fit tectonic model. Journal of Geophysical Research, 118, 1-15: doi:10.1002/jgrb.50079

East GondwanaSummary
Published models for the Cretaceous seafloor-spreading history of East Gondwana result in unlikely tectonic scenarios for at least one of the plate boundaries involved and/or violate particular constraints from at least one of the associated ocean basins. We link East Gondwana spreading corridors by integrating magnetic and gravity anomaly data from the Enderby Basin off East Antarctica within a regional plate kinematic framework to identify a conjugate series of east-west-trending magnetic anomalies, M4 to M0 (~126.7–120.4 Ma). … Read more…

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Seawater chemistry driven by supercontinent assembly, breakup and dispersal, Müller et al. (2013)

Muller etal Fig1 - Seawater Chemistry Driven by Supercontinental AssemblyCitation
Müller, R. D., Dutkiewicz, A., Seton, M. and Gaina, C. (2013). Seawater chemistry driven by supercontinent assembly, break-up and dispersal Geology. doi 10.1130/G34405.1.

Summary
Global oceans are known to have alternated between aragonite and calcite seas. These oscillations reflect changes in the Mg/Ca ratio of seawater, which control biomineralisation and the composition of marine carbonates and are thought to be caused by the time dependence of crustal accretion at mid-ocean ridge crests and associated high temperature mid-ocean ridge brine flux. Here we use global ocean basin reconstructions to demonstrate that these fluctuations are instead caused by the gradual growth and destruction of mid-ocean ridges and their relatively cool flanks during long-term tectonic cycles thus linking ocean chemistry to off-ridge low temperature hydrothermal flux. Early Jurassic aragonite seas were a consequence of supercontinent stability and minima in mid-ocean ridge length and basalt alteration. The break-up of Pangaea led to a gradual doubling in ridge length and a 50% increase in hydrothermal flux mainly through an enormous increase in ridge flank area, leading to enhanced alteration of basalt, lowered seawater Mg/Ca ratios and marine hypercalcification from 140 to 35 Ma. … Read more…

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The tectonic evolution of the Arctic since Pangea breakup: Integrating constraints from surface geology and geophysics with mantle structure

Shephard Arctic IconCitation
Shephard, G. E., Müller, R. D., & Seton, M. (2013). The tectonic evolution of the Arctic since Pangea breakup: Integrating constraints from surface geology and geophysics with mantle structure. Earth-Science Reviews, 124, 148-183. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.05.012

Summary
The tectonic evolution of the circum-Arctic, including the northern Pacific, Siberian and North American margins, since the Jurassic has been punctuated by the opening and closing of ocean basins, the accretion of autochthonous and allochthonous terranes and associated deformation. This complexity is expressed in the uncertainty of plate tectonic models of the region, with the time-dependent configurations and kinematic history remaining poorly understood. … Read more…

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Global continental and ocean basin reconstructions since 200 Ma

Plate reconstruction 200Ma-1Global plate motion models provide a spatial and temporal framework for geological data and have been effective tools for exploring processes occurring at the earth’s surface. However, published models either have insufficient temporal coverage or fail to treat tectonic plates in a self-consistent manner. They usually consider the motions of selected features attached to tectonic plates, such as continents, but generally do not explicitly account for the continuous evolution of plate boundaries through time. … Read more…

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Testing absolute plate reference frames and the implications for the generation of geodynamic mantle heterogeneity structure

Shephard 2012 agegrids vels 140-1Absolute reference frames are a means of describing the motion of plates on the surface of the Earth over time, relative to a fixed point or frame. Multiple models of absolute plate motion have been proposed for the Cretaceous-Tertiary period, however, estimating the robustness and limitations of each model remains a significant limitation for refining both regional and global models of plate motion as well as fully integrated and time dependent geodynamic models. Here, we use a novel approach to compare five models of absolute plate motion in terms of their consequences for forward modelled deep mantle structure since at least 140 Ma. … Read more…

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Constraining the Jurassic extent of Greater India: Tectonic evolution of the West Australian margin

2011GC003919-p1a-1We present the Indian Ocean plate tectonic model accompanying the study of Gibbons et al., (2012). This work details the first regional-scale tectonic model of the breakup of East Gondwana. Our model shows that the breakup of East Gondwana started with the migration of a continental sliver, Argoland, in the Late Jurassic and was followed by breakup between Greater India and Australia-Antarctica in the Early Cretaceous, involving spreading reconfigurations, which left several sunken continental plateaus of Indian crust on the Australian plate. New evidence from seafloor off northwest Australia also shows that the majority of Greater India reached only about halfway up the West Australian margin, to the Wallaby-Zenith Plateaus. … Read more…

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Insights on the kinematics of the India-Eurasia collision from global geodynamic models

Image 002We present the input plate motion models and results from the study by Zahirovic et al. (2012) on the India-Eurasia collision using linked kinematic and geodynamic models.

Two end-member scenarios of the India-Eurasia collision were tested. The conventional model invokes long-lived Andean-style subduction along southern Eurasia until continental collision between a maximum extent Greater India and Lhasa at ~60 Ma. … Read more…

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Full-fit, palinspastic reconstruction of the conjugate Australian-Antarctic margins

AusAntCThick47Ma-1Despite decades of study the pre-rift configuration and early rifting history between Australia and Antarctica is not well established. The plate boundary system during the Cretaceous includes the evolving Kerguelen-Broken Ridge Large Igneous Province in the west as well as the conjugate passive and transform margin segments of the Australian and Antarctic continents. … Read more…

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Dynamic subsidence of eastern Australia during the Cretaceous

Dynamic Subsidence of Eastern Australia Matthews et al (2011)During the Early Cretaceous Australia’s eastward passage over sinking subducted slabs induced widespread dynamic subsidence and formation of a large eperiogenic sea in the eastern interior. Despite evidence for convergence between Australia and the paleo-Pacific, the subduction zone location has been poorly constrained. Using coupled plate tectonic-mantle convection models, we test two end-member scenarios, one with subduction directly east of Australia’s reconstructed continental margin, and a second with subduction translated ~1000 km east, implying the existence of a back-arc basin. Our models incorporate a rheological model for the mantle and lithosphere, plate motions since 140 Ma and evolving plate boundaries. While mantle rheology affects the magnitude of surface vertical motions, timing of uplift and subsidence depends on plate boundary geometries and kinematics. … Read more…

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