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On the cause of continental breakup a simple analysis in terms of driving mechanisms of plate tectonics and mantle plumes.

Niu, Yaoling (2020) 'On the cause of continental breakup a simple analysis in terms of driving mechanisms of plate tectonics and mantle plumes.', Journal of Asian earth sciences., 194 . p. 104367.


Earth’s continents can come together to form supercontinents and the supercontinents can break apart into fragments of varying size scattering around the globe through a hypothetical process called continental drift. The continental drift hypothesis had survived after ∼ 60 years debate and evolved into the powerful theory of plate tectonics with unquestionable and irrefutable lines of evidence. This narrative statement is familiar and acceptable to everyone in the scientific community, but scientists differ when talking about the cause of continental breakup. Some advocate mantle plumes, especially superplumes, as the cause (“bottom up”), whereas others emphasize plate tectonics to be the cause (“top down”) and still some believe both are needed. In this short paper, I do not wish to enter the debate, but offer a readily understandable geological analysis on the likely driving mechanisms of plate tectonics and mantle plumes, which leads to the conclusion that continental breakup is a straightforward consequence of plate tectonics without requiring mantle plumes. Mantle plumes, if needed, may be of help at the early rifting stage, but cannot lead to complete breakup, let alone to drive long distance dispersal of broken continents. Superplumes invoked by many do not exist. The debate may continue, but I encourage enthusiastic debaters to consider these straightforward concepts and principles of geology and physics given in this analysis.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:© 2020 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:11 November 2019
Date deposited:12 November 2019
Date of first online publication:13 April 2020
Date first made open access:13 April 2021

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