Making it thick: A volcanic plateau origin of Palaeoarchean continental lithosphere of the Pilbara and Kaapvaal cratons

Martin J. Van Kranendonk, R. Hugh Smithies, William L. Griffin, David L. Huston, Arthur H. Hickman, David C. Champion, Carl R. Anhaeusser, Franco Pirajno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How and when continents grew and plate tectonics started on Earth remain poorly constrained. Most researchers apply the modern plate tectonic paradigm to problems of ancient crustal formation, but these are unsatisfactory because diagnostic criteria and actualistic plate configurations are lacking. Here, we show that 3.5-3.2 Ga continental nuclei in the Pilbara Craton, Australia, and the eastern Kaapvaal Craton, southern Africa, formed as thick volcanic plateaux built on a substrate of older continental lithosphere and did not accrete through horizontal tectonic processes. These nuclei survived because of the contemporaneous development of buoyant, nonsubductable mantle roots. This plateau-type of Archean continental crust is distinct from, but complementary to, Archean gneiss terranes formed over shallowly dipping zones of intraoceanic underplating (proto-subduction) on a vigorously convecting early Earth with smaller plates and primitive plate tectonics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-111
Number of pages29
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Volume389
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 24 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology

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