Tectonics

Definition

Tectonics is the study of the structural geology of the Earth and other planetary bodies, and the local and regional processes that created that rock geometry. This includes the movements of the Earth’s tectonic plates that result in the creation, destruction and rearrangement of the Earth’s crust and lithosphere.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research |

    Extreme temperatures and fluid pressures are measured, and their causes modelled, in a borehole into the Alpine Fault, where an earthquake rupture is expected within the next few decades.

    • Rupert Sutherland
    • , John Townend
    • , Virginia Toy
    • , Phaedra Upton
    • , Jamie Coussens
    • , Michael Allen
    • , Laura-May Baratin
    • , Nicolas Barth
    • , Leeza Becroft
    • , Carolin Boese
    • , Austin Boles
    • , Carolyn Boulton
    • , Neil G. R. Broderick
    • , Lucie Janku-Capova
    • , Brett M. Carpenter
    • , Bernard Célérier
    • , Calum Chamberlain
    • , Alan Cooper
    • , Ashley Coutts
    • , Simon Cox
    • , Lisa Craw
    • , Mai-Linh Doan
    • , Jennifer Eccles
    • , Dan Faulkner
    • , Jason Grieve
    • , Julia Grochowski
    • , Anton Gulley
    • , Arthur Hartog
    • , Jamie Howarth
    • , Katrina Jacobs
    • , Tamara Jeppson
    • , Naoki Kato
    • , Steven Keys
    • , Martina Kirilova
    • , Yusuke Kometani
    • , Rob Langridge
    • , Weiren Lin
    • , Timothy Little
    • , Adrienn Lukacs
    • , Deirdre Mallyon
    • , Elisabetta Mariani
    • , Cécile Massiot
    • , Loren Mathewson
    • , Ben Melosh
    • , Catriona Menzies
    • , Jo Moore
    • , Luiz Morales
    • , Chance Morgan
    • , Hiroshi Mori
    • , Andre Niemeijer
    • , Osamu Nishikawa
    • , David Prior
    • , Katrina Sauer
    • , Martha Savage
    • , Anja Schleicher
    • , Douglas R. Schmitt
    • , Norio Shigematsu
    • , Sam Taylor-Offord
    • , Damon Teagle
    • , Harold Tobin
    • , Robert Valdez
    • , Konrad Weaver
    • , Thomas Wiersberg
    • , Jack Williams
    • , Nick Woodman
    •  & Martin Zimmer
  • Research |

    Quartz minerals in Earth’s crust are thought to melt at high temperatures. Laboratory friction experiments, however, show that metastable melting of quartz on a fault surface can occur at lower temperatures, and could lead to large earthquakes.

    • Sung Keun Lee
    • , Raehee Han
    • , Eun Jeong Kim
    • , Gi Young Jeong
    • , Hoon Khim
    •  & Takehiro Hirose
  • Research | | open

    How flat slabs at subduction zones are created remains unclear. Here, the authors show that the Nazca slab has retreated at 2 cm per year since 50 Ma but no rollback has occurred in the last 12 Myr in the flat slab, implying that an overpressured sub-slab mantle can impede rollback and maintain a flat slab.

    • Gerben Schepers
    • , Douwe J. J. van Hinsbergen
    • , Wim Spakman
    • , Martha E. Kosters
    • , Lydian M. Boschman
    •  & Nadine McQuarrie
  • Research | | open

    Intermediate-depth earthquakes (30-300 km) occur in subducting oceanic slabs, but their generation mechanism remains enigmatic. Here, the authors show through high-pressure and dehydration experiments of antigorite that dehydration-driven stress transfer triggers intermediate-depth earthquakes.

    • Thomas P. Ferrand
    • , Nadège Hilairet
    • , Sarah Incel
    • , Damien Deldicque
    • , Loïc Labrousse
    • , Julien Gasc
    • , Joerg Renner
    • , Yanbin Wang
    • , Harry W. Green II
    •  & Alexandre Schubnel

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    Unlike Earth, Venus lacks discrete, moving plates. Analogue model experiments suggest that observed hints at plate recycling do indeed indicate current, localized destruction of the Venusian surface.

    • Fabio Crameri
    Nature Geoscience 10, 330–331
  • News and Views |

    Over 70% of the volcanism on Earth occurs beneath an ocean veil. Now, robotic- and fibre-optic-based technologies are beginning to reveal this deep environment and identify subaqueous volcanoes as rich sources of sulfur, carbon dioxide and life.

    • Deborah Kelley
    Nature Geoscience 10, 251–253
  • News and Views |

    The geological record preserves scant evidence for early plate tectonics. Analysis of eclogites — metamorphic rocks formed in subduction zones — in the Trans-Hudson mountain belt suggests modern-style subduction may have operated 1,800 million years ago.

    • Clare Warren
    Nature Geoscience 10, 245–246
  • News and Views |

    180 million years ago Earth's continents were amalgamated into one supercontinent called Pangaea. Analysis of oceanic crust formed since that time suggests that the cooling rate of Earth was enhanced in the wake of Pangaea's dispersal.

    • Adrian Lenardic
  • News and Views |

    Tectonic plate interiors are often regarded as relatively inactive. Yet, reconstructions of marine terrace uplift in Angola suggest that underlying mantle flow can rapidly warp Earth's surface far from obviously active plate boundaries.

    • Nicky White
    Nature Geoscience 9, 867–869
  • News and Views |

    Mantle enrichment processes were thought to be limited to parts of oceanic plates influenced by plumes and to continental interiors. Analyses of mantle fragments of the Pacific Plate suggest that such enrichment processes may operate everywhere.

    • Jonathan E. Snow
    Nature Geoscience 9, 862–863