Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Possible flush instability in mantle convection at the Archaean–Proterozoic transition

Abstract

THE late Archaean eon (3 to 2.5 billion years ago) seems to have been a time of profound geological changes1–5: rapid growth of the continents, of the volume of cratonic sediments and of the area of the continental shelves was accompanied by widespread emplacement of potassium-rich granitic rocks, leading to the 'cratonization' of the continental crust3,6. There is also evidence for climate change7,8 at this time, possibly reflecting changes in the composition of the atmosphere and the volume of the oceans. The period ends with the Huronian glaciation, the first well documented glacial episode9, and this transition appears to be marked by a strong increase in the intensity of the geomagnetic field10. Here we present simulations of mantle convection at the end of the late Archaean, and show that a breakdown of two-layer convection (a 'flush' instability11) occurring at this time could have led to a period of volcanic and tectonic activity that might account for the reported geological and palaeoenvironmental changes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Armstrong, R. L. Austr. J. Earth Sci. 38, 613–630 (1991).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Taylor, S. R. & McLennan, S. M. The Continental Crust: its Composition and Evolution (Blackwell Scientific, Boston, 1985).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Taylor, S. R. & McLennan, S. M. Rev. Geophys. 33, 241–265 (1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Kröner, A. Precambrian Plate Tectonics (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Condie, K. C. Archaean Crustal Evolution (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Percival, J. A. in Archean Crustal Evolution (ed. Condie, K. C.) 357–410 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1994).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Kasting, J. F. Science 259, 920–926 (1993).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Des Marais, D. J. in Archean Crustal Evolution (ed. Condie, K. C.) 505–523 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1994).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  9. Crowley, T. J. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 21, 828–877 (1983).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hale, C. J. Nature 329, 233–237 (1986).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Christensen, U. & Yuen, D. A. J. geophys. Res. 90, 10291–10300 (1985).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Tackley, P. J. Rev. Geophys. 33 Suppl., 275–282 (1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Steinbach, V., Yuen, D. A. & Zhao, W. Geophys, Res. Lett. 20, 1119–1122 (1993).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Yuen, D. A. et al. Phys. Earth planet Inter. 86, 185–203 (1994).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Solheim, L. P. & Peltier, W. R. J. geophys. Res. 99, 6997–7018 (1994).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Stein, M. & Hofman, A. W. Nature 372, 63–68 (1994).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Calvert, A. J., Sawyer, E. W., Davis, W. J. & Ludden, J. N. Nature 375, 670–674 (1995).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Spohn, T. & Schubert, G. J. geophys. Res. 87, 4682–4696 (1982).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. Spohn, T. & Breuer, D. in Evolution of the Earth and Planets (eds Takahashi, E., Jeanloz, R. & Rubie, D. C.) 55–71 (Geophys. Monogr. Ser. 74, Am. Geophys. Union, Washington DC, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Stevenson, D. J., Spohn, T. & Schubert, G. Icarus 54, 466–489 (1983).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Schubert, G. & Reymer, A. P. S. Nature 316, 336–339 (1985).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. Galer, S. J. G. Earth planet. Sci. Lett. 105, 214–228 (1993).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. McGovern P. & Schubert, G. Earth planet. Sci. Lett. 96, 27–37 (1989).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Armstrong, R. L. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A 301, 433–471 (1981).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Boyd, F. P. & Gurney, J. J. Science 232, 427–477 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Arndt, N. T. in Archean Crustal Evolution (ed. Condie, K. C.) 11–44 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1994).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  27. Tajika, E. & Matsui, T. in Origin of the Earth (eds Newsom, H. E. & Jones, J. H.) 347–370 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Breuer, D., Spohn, T. Possible flush instability in mantle convection at the Archaean–Proterozoic transition. Nature 378, 608–610 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/378608a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/378608a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing