Planet scale reorganisations of the plate-mantle system

Project Summary
Global climate change and shrinking resources have heightened our sense of dependence on the earth as a dynamic and complex system. This project aims to provide a unifying context for enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the workings of the inner earth and, in particular, its complex system behaviour during major tectonic events. The project has two broad aims:

  • To unravel the causes of sudden plate tectonic reorganizations and to explicitly model them. Are global reorganizations due to upper-lower mantle slab avalanches? Or are they driven by the detachment of large portions of a slab as expected during a ridge subduction event? What distinguished regional from global events in terms of their trigger mechanisms?
  • To reproduce global plate motions preceding and following a global reorganization. This will be accomplished by imposing initial conditions and letting the system evolve by itself. Can we start from a initial plate configuration and then obtain plate motions as observed based on dynamic forces only? Can we also obtain realistic trench motions and plate motions simultaneously?

Funding Agency
Swiss National Foundation 2009-2011

Project Participants
Dr Gabriele Morra
Prof Dietmar Müller