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Published 2007 | public
Book Section - Chapter

True Polar Wander: Linking Deep and Shallow Geodynamics to Hydro- and Biospheric Hypotheses


Inertial adjustment of the solid Earth relative to its core and spin/magnetic-field axis is known as true polar wander (TPW), or sometimes 'polar wandering.' TPW interferes with plate motion derivations from apparent polar wander paths, but if the speed and magnitude of TPW is sufficiently fast and large (here labeled 'type II' TPW), global paleogeography may be reconstructed in a novel reference frame centered about the TPW axis. We outline such reconstruction using 'spinner diagrams,' and we demonstrate schematically that multiple, fast, type II TPW events hypothesized throughout Cryogenian–Ediacaran–Cambrian time may reconstruct the Paleozoic supercontinent Gondwanaland, completely independent of marine magnetic anomalies. This proof of concept strongly argues that fast TPW may be a frequent, as-yet unrecognized phenomenon at other times. We review the intervals of Earth history hypothesized to be marked by significant TPW, and we outline general oceanographic effects and carbon reservoir changes expected to be associated with fast TPW events.

Additional Information

© 2007 Elsevier B.V. The authors are grateful for comments and criticisms from Dennis Kent, Bob Kopp, Adam Maloof, Ross Mitchell, and Will Sager. Adam Maloof developed spinner diagrams in concert with TDR and DADE. Jean-Pascal Cogné's PaleoMac© program (downloaded with password permission from J-PC) readily produces spinner diagrams. This work is supported in part by a 3-year NSF Graduate Fellowship to TDR; NSF grants 9807741, 9814608, and 9725577; and funds from the NASA National Astrobiology Institute to JLK and a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Award to DADE.

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August 19, 2023
January 13, 2024