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Evolution of the Continents II

Lecture by

Professor John Platt


Reading assignments for these two lectures: Tarbuck & Lutgens, ch 22, p. 618-624, and ch 14.

Topics covered in this lecture

The modern world (Phanerozoic Eon) Mechanisms of continental growth

The Phanerozoic
540 Ma to present Plate tectonic processes comparable to present Continued continental growth Formation and break-up of Pangea

United Plates of America


Late Proterozoic and Phanerozoic mountain chains have added new material around the old shield Many of these chains represent an old continental collision The youngest addition is the Cordillera

Pangea
During the Phanerozoic, the supercontinent of Pangea was created ~ 280 Ma, and broke up by ~200 Ma.

Mechanisms of Continental Growth and Modification


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Accretion of sediment along subduction zones Emplacement of ophiolites Magmatism above subduction zones Accretion of island arcs Accretion of continental fragments Lateral translation of continental fragments Continental collision

1. Accretion of sediment in subduction zones

Makran Ranges of Pakistan. Young sediment has been accreted to the south Asian margin: accretionary wedge

Makran Ranges

Sand deposited in the deep ocean, then accreted to the continental margin

Nankai trough accretionary wedge

Moore et al 1990

2. Magmatism above subduction zones

Mt Rainier and Seattle

3. Magmatism at mid-ocean ridges


Oceanic crust forms as a result of partial melting in the mantle during plate divergence Magma is basaltic in composition Forms a crustal layer of intrusive and volcanic rocks about 6 km thick

Magmatism at mid-ocean ridges


Magma cools to form 6 km thick oceanic crust Forms distinctive sequence of intrusive and extrusive rocks locally preserved on land: Ophiolite sequence

4. Accretion of island arcs

5. Accretion of continental fragments

Much of the North American Cordillera consists of accreted terranes, including continental fragments, island arcs, and accretionary wedges

6. Lateral translation of continental fragments


The western margin of North America is being translated northwestward along the San Andreas Fault

7. Continental collision

Continental collision creates thick crust and spectacular mountain ranges. Shishepangma (Himalayas): 8,013 m

Continental Collision

Continental collision sweeps up much material from the oceans and incorporates them into the continents

United Plates of America


Late Proterozoic and Phanerozoic mountain chains have added new material around the old shield Many of these chains represent an old continental collision The youngest addition is the Cordillera