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Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction

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Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction. / Johnson, Tim E.; Brown, Michael; Gardiner, Nicholas J.; Kirkland, Christopher L.; Smithies, R. Hugh.

In: Nature, Vol. 543, No. 7644, 09.03.2017, p. 239-242.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Harvard

Johnson, TE, Brown, M, Gardiner, NJ, Kirkland, CL & Smithies, RH 2017, 'Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction', Nature, vol. 543, no. 7644, pp. 239-242. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21383

APA

Johnson, T. E., Brown, M., Gardiner, N. J., Kirkland, C. L., & Smithies, R. H. (2017). Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction. Nature, 543(7644), 239-242. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21383

Vancouver

Johnson TE, Brown M, Gardiner NJ, Kirkland CL, Smithies RH. Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction. Nature. 2017 Mar 9;543(7644):239-242. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21383

Author

Johnson, Tim E. ; Brown, Michael ; Gardiner, Nicholas J. ; Kirkland, Christopher L. ; Smithies, R. Hugh. / Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction. In: Nature. 2017 ; Vol. 543, No. 7644. pp. 239-242.

Bibtex - Download

@article{da5fde919acf4dc5ab71d8e8cf8bf8df,
title = "Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction",
abstract = "The geodynamic environment in which Earth's first continents formed and were stabilized remains controversial. Most exposed continental crust that can be dated back to the Archaean eon (4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago) comprises tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks (TTGs) that were formed through partial melting of hydrated low-magnesium basaltic rocks; notably, these TTGs have 'arc-like' signatures of trace elements and thus resemble the continental crust produced in modern subduction settings. In the East Pilbara Terrane, Western Australia, low-magnesium basalts of the Coucal Formation at the base of the Pilbara Supergroup have trace-element compositions that are consistent with these being source rocks for TTGs. These basalts may be the remnants of a thick (more than 35 kilometres thick), ancient (more than 3.5 billion years old) basaltic crust that is predicted to have existed if Archaean mantle temperatures were much hotter than today's. Here, using phase equilibria modelling of the Coucal basalts, we confirm their suitability as TTG 'parents', and suggest that TTGs were produced by around 20 per cent to 30 per cent melting of the Coucal basalts along high geothermal gradients (of more than 700 degrees Celsius per gigapascal). We also analyse the trace-element composition of the Coucal basalts, and propose that these rocks were themselves derived from an earlier generation of high-magnesium basaltic rocks, suggesting that the arc-like signature in Archaean TTGs was inherited from an ancestral source lineage. This protracted, multistage process for the production and stabilization of the first continents - coupled with the high geothermal gradients - is incompatible with modern-style plate tectonics, and favours instead the formation of TTGs near the base of thick, plateau-like basaltic crust. Thus subduction was not required to produce TTGs in the early Archaean eon.",
author = "Johnson, {Tim E.} and Michael Brown and Gardiner, {Nicholas J.} and Kirkland, {Christopher L.} and Smithies, {R. Hugh}",
note = "Authors acknowledge financial support from The Institute of Geoscience Research (TIGeR) at Curtin University.",
year = "2017",
month = mar,
day = "9",
doi = "10.1038/nature21383",
language = "English",
volume = "543",
pages = "239--242",
journal = "Nature",
issn = "0028-0836",
publisher = "Nature publishing group",
number = "7644",

}

RIS (suitable for import to EndNote) - Download

TY - JOUR

T1 - Earth's first stable continents did not form by subduction

AU - Johnson, Tim E.

AU - Brown, Michael

AU - Gardiner, Nicholas J.

AU - Kirkland, Christopher L.

AU - Smithies, R. Hugh

N1 - Authors acknowledge financial support from The Institute of Geoscience Research (TIGeR) at Curtin University.

PY - 2017/3/9

Y1 - 2017/3/9

N2 - The geodynamic environment in which Earth's first continents formed and were stabilized remains controversial. Most exposed continental crust that can be dated back to the Archaean eon (4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago) comprises tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks (TTGs) that were formed through partial melting of hydrated low-magnesium basaltic rocks; notably, these TTGs have 'arc-like' signatures of trace elements and thus resemble the continental crust produced in modern subduction settings. In the East Pilbara Terrane, Western Australia, low-magnesium basalts of the Coucal Formation at the base of the Pilbara Supergroup have trace-element compositions that are consistent with these being source rocks for TTGs. These basalts may be the remnants of a thick (more than 35 kilometres thick), ancient (more than 3.5 billion years old) basaltic crust that is predicted to have existed if Archaean mantle temperatures were much hotter than today's. Here, using phase equilibria modelling of the Coucal basalts, we confirm their suitability as TTG 'parents', and suggest that TTGs were produced by around 20 per cent to 30 per cent melting of the Coucal basalts along high geothermal gradients (of more than 700 degrees Celsius per gigapascal). We also analyse the trace-element composition of the Coucal basalts, and propose that these rocks were themselves derived from an earlier generation of high-magnesium basaltic rocks, suggesting that the arc-like signature in Archaean TTGs was inherited from an ancestral source lineage. This protracted, multistage process for the production and stabilization of the first continents - coupled with the high geothermal gradients - is incompatible with modern-style plate tectonics, and favours instead the formation of TTGs near the base of thick, plateau-like basaltic crust. Thus subduction was not required to produce TTGs in the early Archaean eon.

AB - The geodynamic environment in which Earth's first continents formed and were stabilized remains controversial. Most exposed continental crust that can be dated back to the Archaean eon (4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago) comprises tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks (TTGs) that were formed through partial melting of hydrated low-magnesium basaltic rocks; notably, these TTGs have 'arc-like' signatures of trace elements and thus resemble the continental crust produced in modern subduction settings. In the East Pilbara Terrane, Western Australia, low-magnesium basalts of the Coucal Formation at the base of the Pilbara Supergroup have trace-element compositions that are consistent with these being source rocks for TTGs. These basalts may be the remnants of a thick (more than 35 kilometres thick), ancient (more than 3.5 billion years old) basaltic crust that is predicted to have existed if Archaean mantle temperatures were much hotter than today's. Here, using phase equilibria modelling of the Coucal basalts, we confirm their suitability as TTG 'parents', and suggest that TTGs were produced by around 20 per cent to 30 per cent melting of the Coucal basalts along high geothermal gradients (of more than 700 degrees Celsius per gigapascal). We also analyse the trace-element composition of the Coucal basalts, and propose that these rocks were themselves derived from an earlier generation of high-magnesium basaltic rocks, suggesting that the arc-like signature in Archaean TTGs was inherited from an ancestral source lineage. This protracted, multistage process for the production and stabilization of the first continents - coupled with the high geothermal gradients - is incompatible with modern-style plate tectonics, and favours instead the formation of TTGs near the base of thick, plateau-like basaltic crust. Thus subduction was not required to produce TTGs in the early Archaean eon.

U2 - 10.1038/nature21383

DO - 10.1038/nature21383

M3 - Article

C2 - 28241147

AN - SCOPUS:85015190947

VL - 543

SP - 239

EP - 242

JO - Nature

JF - Nature

SN - 0028-0836

IS - 7644

ER -

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