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Nature. 2017 May 18;545(7654):332-335. doi: 10.1038/nature22042. Epub 2017 May 8.

Continental crust formation on early Earth controlled by intrusive magmatism.

Author information

1
Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
2
Bayerisches Geoinstitut, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany.

Abstract

The global geodynamic regime of early Earth, which operated before the onset of plate tectonics, remains contentious. As geological and geochemical data suggest hotter Archean mantle temperature and more intense juvenile magmatism than in the present-day Earth, two crust-mantle interaction modes differing in melt eruption efficiency have been proposed: the Io-like heat-pipe tectonics regime dominated by volcanism and the "Plutonic squishy lid" tectonics regime governed by intrusive magmatism, which is thought to apply to the dynamics of Venus. Both tectonics regimes are capable of producing primordial tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) continental crust but lithospheric geotherms and crust production rates as well as proportions of various TTG compositions differ greatly, which implies that the heat-pipe and Plutonic squishy lid hypotheses can be tested using natural data. Here we investigate the creation of primordial TTG-like continental crust using self-consistent numerical models of global thermochemical convection associated with magmatic processes. We show that the volcanism-dominated heat-pipe tectonics model results in cold crustal geotherms and is not able to produce Earth-like primordial continental crust. In contrast, the Plutonic squishy lid tectonics regime dominated by intrusive magmatism results in hotter crustal geotherms and is capable of reproducing the observed proportions of various TTG rocks. Using a systematic parameter study, we show that the typical modern eruption efficiency of less than 40 per cent leads to the production of the expected amounts of the three main primordial crustal compositions previously reported from field data (low-, medium- and high-pressure TTG). Our study thus suggests that the pre-plate-tectonics Archean Earth operated globally in the Plutonic squishy lid regime rather than in an Io-like heat-pipe regime.

PMID:
28482358
DOI:
10.1038/nature22042

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