Is the rate of supercontinent assembly changing with time?

Kent Condie*, Sergei A. Pisarevsky, Jun Korenaga, Steve Gardoll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

To address the question of secular changes in the speed of the supercontinent cycle, we use two major databases for the last 2.5. Gyr: the timing and locations of collisional and accretionary orogens, and average plate velocities as deduced from paleomagnetic and paleogeographic data. Peaks in craton collision occur at 1850 and 600. Ma with smaller peaks at 1100 and 350. Ma. Distinct minima occur at 1700-1200, 900-700, and 300-200. Ma. There is no simple relationship in craton collision frequency or average plate velocity between supercontinent assemblies and breakups. Assembly of Nuna at 1700-1500. Ma correlates with very low collision rates, whereas assemblies of Rodinia and Gondwana at 1000-850 and 650-350. Ma, respectively correspond to moderate to high rates. Very low collision rates occur at times of supercontinent breakup at 2200-2100, 1300-1100, 800-650, and 150-0. Ma. A peak in plate velocity at 450-350. Ma correlates with early stages of growth of Pangea and another at 1100. Ma with initial stages of Rodinia assembly following breakup of Nuna. A major drop in craton numbers after 1850. Ma corresponds with the collision and suturing of numerous Archean blocks. Orogens and passive margins show the same two cycles of ocean basin closing: an early cycle from Neoarchean to 1900. Ma and a later cycle, which corresponds to the supercontinent cycle, from 1900. Ma to the present. The cause of these cycles is not understood, but may be related to increasing plate speeds during supercontinent assembly and whether or not long-lived accretionary orogens accompany supercontinent assembly. LIP (large igneous province) age peaks at 2200, 2100, 1380 (and 1450?), 800, 300, 200 and 100. Ma correlate with supercontinent breakup and minima at 2600, 1700-1500, 1100-900, and 600-400. Ma with supercontinent assembly. Other major LIP age peaks do not correlate with the supercontinent cycle. A thermochemical instability model for mantle plume generation can explain all major LIP events by one process and implies that LIP events that correspond to the supercontinent cycle are independent of this cycle. The period of the supercontinent cycle is highly variable, ranging from 500 to 1000. Myr if the late Archean supercratons are included. Nuna has a duration of about 300. Myr (1500-1200. Ma), Rodinia 100. Myr (850-750. Ma), and Gondwana-Pangea 200. Myr (350-150. Ma). Breakup durations are short, generally 100-200. Myr. The history of angular plate velocities, craton collision frequency, passive margin histories, and periodicity of the supercontinent cycle all suggest a gradual speed up of plate tectonics with time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-289
Number of pages12
JournalPrecambrian Research
Volume259
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Collisional orogens
  • Passive margins
  • Plate speeds
  • Plate tectonics
  • Supercontinent cycle

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