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Plate tectonics and convection in the Earth's mantle: toward a numerical simulation

Moresi, Louis and Gurnis, Michael and Zhong, Shijie (2000) Plate tectonics and convection in the Earth's mantle: toward a numerical simulation. Computing in Science & Engineering, 2 (3). pp. 22-33. ISSN 1521-9615. doi:10.1109/5992.841793.

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Plate tectonics is a kinematic description of Earth that treats the outer shell of its mantle as a number of plates or rigid spherical caps that move with respect to each other (see the “Plate tectonics” sidebar). The mantle is the outer, solid 3,000-km-thick shell that overlies Earth’s fluid outer core. An enormous amount of geological and geophysical data has gone into determining the motion of the plates,1 and within the last few years direct GPS measurements have corroborated the geological constraints on the motions of plates. A fundamental question in geology has been, what drives the plates? This question has largely been solved—the plates are part of a system of large-scale thermal convection—and geodynamicists have moved on to more difficult questions, such as what are the details of the coupling between surface motions and deeper mantle flow? and why do we have plate tectonics as opposed to some other mode of tectonics or thermal convection? Answering these more subtle questions is complicated by the fact that the primary effect of plate motion is to consume the old ocean floor and recycle it into the mantle. The primary evidence of plate history is therefore limited to the past 100 to 200 million years or so (less than 10% of the overall history of plate tectonics). We therefore rely heavily on evidence drawn from theoretical and computational models and from the continents that are not consumed wholesale by plate motions. Ideally these two sources of evidence go hand in hand to reinforce each other.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Moresi, Louis0000-0003-3685-174X
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Additional Information:© 2000 IEEE. Date of Publication: May/Jun 2000; Date of Current Version: 06 August 2002. The Australian Geodynamics Cooperative Research Centre (AGCRC) partially funded Louis Moresi’s work, and the AGCRC’s director has given permission for this article’s publication. This article is contribution number 8676 of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Caltech. This work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
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Australian Geodynamics Cooperative Research Centre (AGCRC)UNSPECIFIED
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Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences8676
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130313-131509138
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Official Citation:Moresi, L.; Gurnis, M.; Shijie Zhong, "Plate tectonics and convection in the Earth's mantle: toward a numerical simulation," Computing in Science & Engineering , vol.2, no.3, pp.22,33, May/Jun 2000 doi: 10.1109/5992.841793
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37500
Deposited On:14 Mar 2013 20:58
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:29

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