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Continent-wide drainage reorganization in North America driven by mantle flow

Wang, Huilin and Gurnis, Michael and Skogseid, Jakob (2020) Continent-wide drainage reorganization in North America driven by mantle flow. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 530 . Art. No. 115910. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115910.

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North America (NA) experienced pronounced changes in continental-scale drainage characterized by a reversal for much of the continental interior from north into the Canadian arctic to south into the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) from the Mid-Cretaceous to the Paleocene. However, the driving mechanism for these profound drainage reorganizations remain unexplained. Here, we investigate the role of mantle flow on landscape evolution, by coupling dynamic topography with surface processes. This approach enables us to simulate catchment dynamics and the rearrangement of sediment transport in response to mantle flow. We show that a west-to-east drainage reversal can be induced by the NA overriding the subducted Farallon plate. Moreover, augmented dynamic subsidence caused by a basalt-to-eclogite transformation of an oceanic plateau within the Farallon slab, depressed the GoM region and expanded the integrated drainage to the GoM since the Early Paleocene. For the first time, we show that dynamic topography can explain the north-to-south continental-scale drainage reorganization in North America.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Wang, Huilin0000-0003-3061-0806
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Skogseid, Jakob0000-0002-6817-7756
Additional Information:© 2019 Elsevier B.V. Received 16 April 2019, Revised 22 September 2019, Accepted 15 October 2019, Available online 5 November 2019. We thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments, and Rebecca Bendick for her editorial handling of this manuscript. H.W. and M.G. were funded by the National Science Foundation through EAR-1358646, EAR-1600956, and EAR-1645775 and by Equinor ASA. The original CitcomS code is obtained from Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics ( The Badlands code is obtained from
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:drainage system; mantle flow; surface processes; Gulf-of-Mexico-routing drainage basin
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20191105-092837340
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Official Citation:Huilin Wang, Michael Gurnis, Jakob Skogseid, Continent-wide drainage reorganization in North America driven by mantle flow, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 530, 2020, 115910, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:99663
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:05 Nov 2019 17:33
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:48

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