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A global plate model including lithospheric deformation along major rifts and orogens since the Triassic

Müller, R. Dietmar and Zahirovic, Sabin and Williams, Simon E. and Cannon, John and Seton, Maria and Bower, Dan J. and Tetley, Michael G. and Heine, Christian and Le Breton, Eline and Liu, Shaofeng and Russell, Samuel H. J. and Yang, Ting and Leonard, Jonathon and Gurnis, Michael (2019) A global plate model including lithospheric deformation along major rifts and orogens since the Triassic. Tectonics, 38 (6). pp. 1884-1907. ISSN 0278-7407.

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Global deep‐time plate motion models have traditionally followed a classical rigid plate approach, even though plate deformation is known to be significant. Here we present a global Mesozoic–Cenozoic deforming plate motion model that captures the progressive extension of all continental margins since the initiation of rifting within Pangea at ~240 Ma. The model also includes major failed continental rifts and compressional deformation along collision zones. The outlines and timing of regional deformation episodes are reconstructed from a wealth of published regional tectonic models and associated geological and geophysical data. We reconstruct absolute plate motions in a mantle reference frame with a joint global inversion using hot spot tracks for the last 80 million years and minimizing global trench migration velocities and net lithospheric rotation. In our optimized model, net rotation is consistently below 0.2°/Myr, and trench migration scatter is substantially reduced. Distributed plate deformation reaches a Mesozoic peak of 30 × 10^6 km^2 in the Late Jurassic (~160–155 Ma), driven by a vast network of rift systems. After a mid‐Cretaceous drop in deformation, it reaches a high of 48 x 10^6 km^2 in the Late Eocene (~35 Ma), driven by the progressive growth of plate collisions and the formation of new rift systems. About a third of the continental crustal area has been deformed since 240 Ma, partitioned roughly into 65% extension and 35% compression. This community plate model provides a framework for building detailed regional deforming plate networks and form a constraint for models of basin evolution and the plate‐mantle system.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemDeforming plate model and associated data
Müller, R. Dietmar0000-0002-3334-5764
Zahirovic, Sabin0000-0002-6751-4976
Williams, Simon E.0000-0003-4670-8883
Cannon, John0000-0003-4749-5605
Seton, Maria0000-0001-8541-1367
Bower, Dan J.0000-0002-0673-4860
Tetley, Michael G.0000-0002-2320-4239
Le Breton, Eline0000-0003-0577-9853
Liu, Shaofeng0000-0002-6667-3721
Yang, Ting0000-0003-2301-2525
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Additional Information:© 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. Received 21 DEC 2018; Accepted 23 APR 2019; Accepted article online 5 MAY 2019; Published online 17 JUN 2019. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their detailed, constructive comments, which improved the manuscript substantially. S. Z. and R. D. M. were supported by Alfred P. Sloan grants G‐2017‐9997 and G‐2018‐11296 through the Deep Carbon Observatory, and J. C. and R. D. M. were supported by the AuScope National Collaborative Research Infrastructure System (NCRIS) program. M. G. was supported by the National Science Foundation through award EAR‐1645775, and E. L. B. was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG; BR 4900/2‐1 grant). The Sydney Informatics Hub provided support for the Artemis high‐performance computer used for our plate model optimization. We thank Wenchao Cao, Joanna Tobin, Maxim Adams, and Joe Ibrahim for assistance with plate model editing and figure production. The deforming plate model and associated data can be downloaded at
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationG-2017-9997
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationG-2018-11296
AuScope National Collaborative Research Infrastructure System (NCRIS)UNSPECIFIED
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)BR 4900/2-1
Subject Keywords:plate tectonics; lithosphere; rift; orogen; geodynamics; deformation
Issue or Number:6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190506-151333044
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Müller, R. D., Zahirovic, S., Williams, S. E., Cannon, J., Seton, M., Bower, D. J., et al. (2019). A global plate model including lithospheric deformation along major rifts and orogens since the Triassic. Tectonics, 38, 1884–1907.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:95264
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:06 May 2019 22:29
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 21:11

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