When did plate tectonics begin?

  • Thread starter cph
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Plate
In summary: So it's a balance between cooling and heating.In summary, plate tectonics began around 3.0 billion years ago during the early Archean when the Earth's crust was still forming and the planet was still highly energized. The evolution of the continental crust has been ongoing for the last 3 billion years, with evidence of sedimentary rocks dating back to 4.40 billion years ago. The Superior Province of the Canadian shield has been studied extensively and provides evidence for plate tectonics operating as far back as 3 billion years ago. It is believed that plate tectonics would have started soon after the formation of a crust, as it is a balance between cooling and heating that drives the movement of magma and
  • #1
cph
43
0
When did plate tectonics begin? The early Archean was essentially shallow seas, salty water early on from rifting, shield volcanoes (no sticky silicates, since no oxygen) etc. There were no deep oceans, no mountain building, no continents, since there was no plate tectonics. One could still have uplifting oceanic like plateau (like Ontang?), but no terranes drifting together, since no plates. How long would it take a crust to cool off sufficiently so that it becomes rigid enough for plates? The Earth was fully energized from mass aggregation, collisional energy, and core drop from planetesimal to proto-earth. Perhaps 1 billion years or more to cool sufficiently? Stromatolites are present at 3.5 Byrs ago, consistent with some shallow seas. If they were wide spread, might this indicate that deep oceans, high mountains, and early continent formation had not yet commenced? So was the early and middle Archean, and origin of life, largely just associated with shallow seas; very different from present plate tectonics, and resultant continents and deep oceanic environments?
 
Earth sciences news on Phys.org
  • #2
I would have thought the Earth as a solid enough crust in less than a billion years. I don't see why plate tectonics would not begin as soon as the crust was mostly solid.
 
  • #3
Nature 443, 811-817 (19 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05191
Evolution of the continental crust
 
  • #4
cph said:
Nature 443, 811-817 (19 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05191
Evolution of the continental crust
Well - from the abstract - "From the late Archaean to late Proterozoic eras (some 3–1 billion years ago), much of the continental crust appears to have been generated in pulses of relatively rapid growth. Reconciling the sedimentary and igneous records for crustal evolution indicates that it may take up to one billion years for new crust to dominate the sedimentary record."

So it's been evolving for the last 3 billion years or so.

The Earth is rather plastic - solids flow very slowly (i.e., creep).
 
  • #5
Here is a more recent treatment that sets the initiation of plate tectonics at around 3.0 billion years ago.
http://sciencenet.cn/upload/blog/file/2011/1/201111414857679162.pdf
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #6
Slightly OT: Have you seen how the temporary crust of lava lakes behaves ? It isn't really plate tectonics in miniature, but it suggests that a primordial 'Post-BigSplat' lava ocean would head that way as soon as any crust forms...

Of course, it would be a long time before enough depth solidifies for erosion and weathering to form sedimentary rocks...
 
  • #7
Nik_2213 said:
Of course, it would be a long time before enough depth solidifies for erosion and weathering to form sedimentary rocks...
Not necessarily. The age of the Earth is 4.54 Ga. The postulated collision with Theia occurred some 50 million years later. We have sedimentary zircons (from Jack Hills) dated at 4.40 Ga. So sedimentary rocks were being formed just a hundred million years after the Big Crash.
 
  • #8
A lot of work over the past couple of decades has been done on the Superior Province of the Canadian shield arguing for plate tectonics at least as far back as 3 Ga. This is primarily with respect to tonalite-tronjhemite-granodiorite (TGG) suites that indicate formation through metasomatized mantle wedges. The model has been further applied to explain the formation of later, Neoarchean plutons that formed from slab rollback and partial melting of thickened crust. All of that would require a process at least similar to Phanerozoic tectonics.

Prior to that time, who knows? There is evidence from ecologitic diamonds that tectonic processes were operating as far back as 3.5 Ga, but I don't think too many crustal fragments of that age have been studied for that purpose.
 
  • #9
darksociety said:
A lot of work over the past couple of decades has been done on the Superior Province of the Canadian shield arguing for plate tectonics at least as far back as 3 Ga.
Don' be messin' with our Canadian Shield now. Canadians believe it has been around since before the Big Bang and are very proud of it. If you go and start all ... lookin'at it an' everything ... the next thing you know it'll start falling apart like the Ross Ice Shelf and Arnie's marriage.

So just move along. It's been here forever; it'll keep bein' here forever 'f you keep your grubby mitts off it.
 
  • #10
I also think plate tectonics would start almost right after a crust formed. Kind of like a boiling pot. Movement of magma from cooler to hot drives plate tectonics. The Earth had to cool for a crust to form but still stay hot enough to have convection currents.
 

Related to When did plate tectonics begin?

1. What is plate tectonics?

Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that explains the movement of the Earth's crust and the formation of its major features, such as continents and ocean basins. It is based on the idea that the Earth's outer layer, or lithosphere, is divided into several large, moving plates.

2. When was the concept of plate tectonics first proposed?

The concept of plate tectonics was first proposed in the early 20th century, but it wasn't widely accepted until the 1960s and 1970s when new evidence, such as seafloor spreading and magnetic polarity reversals, supported the theory.

3. When did scientists first discover evidence for plate tectonics?

In the early 20th century, Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift, which suggested that the continents were once joined together in a single supercontinent and have since moved apart. This was the first evidence for plate tectonics, but it wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s that more evidence was found to support the theory.

4. How do scientists know when plate tectonics began?

The exact date of when plate tectonics began is still debated among scientists. However, based on the evidence of seafloor spreading and magnetic polarity reversals, it is believed that plate tectonics began around 3 billion years ago, during the Archean Eon.

5. What is the driving force behind plate tectonics?

The driving force behind plate tectonics is convection currents in the Earth's mantle. These currents, caused by the heat from the Earth's core, move the plates of the lithosphere above them, causing them to separate, collide, or slide past each other.

Similar threads

  • General Discussion
Replies
1
Views
685
Replies
33
Views
18K
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
0
Views
389
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
1
Views
3K
  • Earth Sciences
Replies
10
Views
8K
Back
Top