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Constructing a truly global model of Earth’s dynamics: basic principles *
V.E. Khain †
Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pyzhevskii per. 7, Moscow, 119017, Russia Received 16 June 2009; accepted 16 November 2009
Abstract This is a snapshot of the today’s views of the Earth with its geospheres, and terrestrial and extraterrestrial triggers of its dynamics and energy sources. Along with the presented brief historic outline of the planetary evolution, these data can make basis for creating in the future a truly global model of the Earth’s dynamics and evolution. © 2010, V.S. Sobolev IGM, Siberian Branch of the RAS. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Earth’s evolution; planetary structure; geospheres; global model of Earth’s dynamics
Introduction Understanding the Earth’s structure and dynamics has been the principal challenge for natural sciences since the latest Renaissance. Many prominent thinkers have tackled the problem, among them René Descartes in the 1630s, James Hutton since the 1760s, Osmond Fisher in 1881, and later Frank Taylor, Alfred Wegener, Arthur Holmes, and the founders of plate tectonics through the 20th century. However, it is not until the turn of the last century that the collected data of seismic tomography, GPS, comparative planetology, and isotope geochemistry have opened avenues to creating a truly global model of the Earth relying upon a solid mathematical background. Explaining the Earth, with overall complexity of its interior and diversity of its driving geological mechanisms, is a task by no means surmountable for a single scientist, were he ever so genius, but requires joint international efforts of many specialists, experts in Earth sciences as well as in biology, astronomy, etc. At the time being it appears already possible to outline the basic ways and constraints of this modeling. This is what the paper is about which is a synthesis of my earlier ideas on the subject (e.g., Khain, 2003; Khain and Goncharov, 2006). Principal issues of global dynamics modeling 1. A global model of the Earth’s dynamics should include actual and historic aspects. The former concerns with the * Corresponding person: Eugene V. Khain.
E-mail address: email@example.com (E.V. Khain)
Earth’s present parameters and processes (geoid shape, current vertical and horizontal movements, seismicity, volcanism, climate change, dynamics of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere). The historic aspect implies retrospective inventory of the Earth’s history since its origin, and possible prehistory, as well as predictions for future trends (there have been some attempts of such predictions, e.g., by Trubitsyn (2008)). 2. The Earth is an open nonequilibrium self-organizing complex system (Anderson et al., 2002), its constituents (different geospheres) being the subsystems. They are, namely, the inner and outer core, the lower, middle, and upper mantle, asthenosphere, lithosphere, crust, cryosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere (troposphere plus stratosphere), ionosphere, plasmasphere and, of course, the biosphere. Each geosphere has its specific phase state, chemistry, and internal dynamics (Pushcharovskii and Pushcharovskii, 1999). Some of them have no distinct bounds but penetrate one into another, such as the cryosphere and the lithosphere or the hydrosphere and the lithosphere, and the biosphere relative to the systems of rocks, water, and air. There are spheres that envelop the planet and extend outside its limits, such as the magnetosphere and the biosphere (especially lately, in the epoch of space exploration). 3. The geosphere boundaries are not always smooth and sharp but can vary within a few tens or hundreds of kilometers and change their position with time as a function of deep heat flux through their different parts. However, this fact does not preclude relative horizontal motion of some spheres over the others, which has been proven, for example, for the inner/outer core and core/mantle boundaries (Mound and Buffett, 2002), or for the lithosphere and the asthenosphere. This motion may be driven by external gravity effects (Barkin, 2005) and be
1068-7971/$ - see front matter D 2010, V . S. Sabolev IGM, Siberian Branch of the RAS. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.rgg.2010.05.001
namely. and some from differentiation into geospheres which began already during those collisions and included. 6. feed from sunlight. The asthenosphere may have been inherited from the primary magma ocean (see below) having built. The contributions of the four heat sources have been decreasing through geological time. together with the lithosphere. 5. 7. The differentiation of the planetary material still continues: this is crust production out of mantle. may have been subject to highest-order (local) convection corresponding to Stille’s cycles.0 Ga). obliquity. Rodinia (1. 100. rifting. and backarc basins.588 V. 4. That.2 Ga) were about 600– 700 Ma. These are the Milankovitch cycles of precession. One more heat source is associated with the gravity action of the Sun and the Moon that generates tides whose dissipation is attendant with mechanic-to-thermal energy conversion. The plume activity was favorable for further continent breakup. and the mantle input to the core. The geospheres are. They maintain the buoyancy rising of hot material from the lowermost mantle and the sinking of cooled slabs back into the mantle as deep as D′′. Unlike the waning interior heat. The subducted material heated up in the center of that zone as a result of heating under the insulating shield of continental lithosphere. led to reassembly of a new supercontinent and to resumed whole-mantle convection. independent. Sr) and extinct in the earliest hundreds of million years (some I and Al isotopes).5 Ga ago. The time spans between Karelian Pangea (1. hydrosphere. with cycles of 21. and the Earth has been generally cooling (at 70–100 °C per billion years on the surface). Another source is interior heat released in natural decay of radioactive chemical elements. The oceans eventually closed as the earlier dispersed continental blocks collided. caused uplift and deformation.8 Ga). This cooling is not too dramatic but has significant geodynamic consequences.1– 1. This periodicity in assembly and dispersal of continents is called Wilson’s cycles. 2008). On the other hand. each sphere is subject to influence from the neighbor spheres inside and outside the planet (especially.7–2.3–0. in turn. and the magnetosphere and the biosphere appeared no later than the Middle Archean. in turn. the relative contributions from the internal and external heat sources have changed through time. The interior heat and gravity are the basic driving forces of the solid Earth dynamics. specifically. crust. in their hottest parts. However. Another consequence of the Earth’s rotation is the Coriolis . 2006). most of the progress was in the early history. The consolidating supercontinents were presumably encircled by a continuous (or almost continuous) zone of subduction. both existing (U. and allowed smaller plumes to rise to the surface through rifted lithosphere. The sutures. volcanic arcs. The largest of those subsidiary plumes produced Large Igneous Provinces (LIP) of continental flood basalts.5 Ga). all these processes being governed by a higher-order convection and a related 200-Myr periodicity known as the Bertrand cycles. and spreading with the ensuing formation of Atlantic-type oceans. Khain / Russian Geology and Geophysics 51 (2010) 587–591 due to the misfit between the Earth’s gravity and geometric centers. and became more intense at the time of transitions from scattered (local) to whole-mantle (global) convection. as almost all basic units (core..6 Ga. where the oceanic slabs were sucked into. 40. and 1200 kyr. as one may infer from the ages of first alkaline rocks derived from D′′ or produced by recycling of lithosphere which subducted to that depth. impinged against the lithospheric base. in view of global heat and mass transfer). its radiation being three times the heat flux from the Earth’s interior. The Earth developed its solid inner core somewhere between 3. the processes in them being specific and their dynamics varying broadly from very slow motion in the mantle to very fast cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. Earth’s spin is an important geodynamic agent. Rb. solar radiation has been increasing as the Sun’s luminosity is growing. though smaller sialic blobs may have been their precursors since the Early Archean. on the one hand. and eccentricity which he invoked first to explain ice ages. This happens. the tectosphere in the earliest Archean. at the mantle base (Maruyama. and some other events may be unknown (Khain and Goncharov.0 Ga. and the last was Late Paleozoic–Early Mesozoic Wegener’s Pangea.E. Th. The Earth’s dynamics is maintained by its heat store most of which remains from the time of its origin though has been replenished in the course of the planet history. The latter. and fold-thrust belts formed along the sutures in place of the oceans. but there was also Gondwana at ~0. The mantle flow is directed from the spreading axes of mid-ocean ridges toward subduction zones in the upper strata and oppositely. when all continental crust available at a certain time amalgamates in a single supercontinent surrounded with the oceanic Panthalassa.7–2. which rose. supercontinents reassembled and broke up every ~400 Myr or more. mantle. and the D′′ layer no later than 2. and atmosphere) had formed by the Early Archean. The present stratification of the planet has been evolving since its origin (Kogarko and Khain. and latest Pangea (0. from subduction zones to the roots of the rising mantle plumes (Burke et al. The first supercontinent appeared in the latest Archean (2. 2001. The process was nonuniform. the formation of the core within first hundreds of million years of the Earth’s history. Pushcharovskii and Pushcharovskii. Later on.7–1. and thus gave rise to superplumes. 2006). 400. formation of the inner core out of the outer core. may have included smaller cycles produced by convection of still higher orders on oceanic periphery (Khain and Goncharov. Thus. More interior heat may also release in friction at the boundaries of geospheres that are rotating at different velocities (Letnikov. 2007). 2001). in which slabs that stacked at the lower-upper mantle boundary dumped into the lower mantle below 660– 670 km in so-called avalanches (Kotelkin and Lobkovskii. The exterior spheres. Its velocity changes periodically whereby the orbital parameters change as well. 2007). The Earth had gained its original heat mainly from planetesimal collisions. including the biosphere. 2008) by the slab suction mechanism.2 and 2. The combination of these ascending and descending counter flows of material produces global mantle convection which repeatedly takes dominance of the Earth’s evolution.
with boundaries about 40º N and 40º S and oppositely directed transgressions and regressions (Odesskii. Vernadsky that the life activity controlled the formation and the composition of both the sedimentary and the granite-metamorphic layers of the crust has been receiving ever more support. Korenaga. as well as the solar wind and magnetic activity. it is most likely very primitive. especially on seismicity (Levin. The very emergence of the biosphere remains enigmatic. reciprocally. the postglacial rebound causes decompression of asthenosphere and triggers magmatic and seismic activity. The latter is often assumed to be the only cause of the worldwide regmatic shear pattern of faults. One more point worth of mentioning is the recently discovered link between the core dynamics and the Earth’s rotation behavior (Rogister and Valette. As noted above.I. which furnishes examples of interaction between the Earth’s geospheres. They were two explosions of the Ediacaran and Early Cambrian biota as late as 600–550 Ma that gave rise to the diverse higher life. that having once appeared. Khain / Russian Geology and Geophysics 51 (2010) 587–591 589 force and the respective lag of lithospheric plates behind the faster W–E rotation of the planet’s interior (westerly rotational drag). carbon dioxide and oxygen (Lovelock. Global change as a consequence of the neotectonic mountain building since the latest Eocene led to greater moisture on the slopes of the growing ranges. fractures. are in active interaction. being possibly responsible for the hypothetical cyclonic rotation of the mantle beneath Asia (Malyshkov and Malyshkov. as well as due to the fact. It has been reasonably assumed since long ago that the Earth’s elevation pattern results from lithospheric deformation controlled by deep-seated mechanisms. However. Scientists are still not sure whether life exists at least on some of the hundreds of other planets that have been discovered recently in the outer space. or maybe earlier.. producing lithospheric stress. 2009). but it is not until recently that the surface processes were found out to influence the astenosphere and the ductile lower crust. 2008). Levin and Sasorova. whose Phanerozoic history was likewise very unsteady being repeatedly interrupted (at least ten times) by great extinctions and inceptions of new taxa. 10. Though acting in different ways and at different scales. the joint action of the rotational drag and mantle convection drive continents alternately northward or southward and cause stress alternation in the two poles. The biosphere is a special sphere of the Earth. and may stem either from the Earth or from outside. Most important biotic events occurred at the Permian/Triassic and Cretaceous/Paleogene boundaries and may have had both terrestrial (volcanism) and extraterrestrial (bolid impact) triggers. 2004). Since its origin at ~3. It appears quite obvious that systems of W–E transforms across the N–S spreading mid-ocean ridges are related with the Earth’s rotation as well. and highly rugged relief (Levin. 2002. 2009). with periodic acceleration and deceleration. especially. There has been increasingly understood that the behavior of the inner core. In addition to the westerly drift. on the other hand. The role of solid Earth tides (mainly lunar ones) was previously underestimated being thought to decrease progressively through the planet’s history. increased the effect of the Pacific subduction on the mountain growth. but if it exists. 2009). Thus. it stands behind the difference in the behavior of the polar and equatorial domains. Early in its history. For instance. the air temperature and the contents of atmospheric gases. the biota itself has been an active climate agent changing. and lineaments making regular nets oriented orthogonally or obliquely to the geoid. high seismicity. this interaction is evidence of the planetary system integrity. it has been an ever more critical agent in the planetary evolution. It appears quite obvious that systems of W–E transforms across the N–S spreading mid-ocean ridges are related with the Earth’s rotation as well. Furthermore. 9. and. a decrease in moisture input into the Peru–Chili trench. especially. there is a feedback between deep-seated and surficial processes. possibly. The Earth was able to develop life due to its advantageous position in the Solar System. within life-friendly limits. the N–S and oblique transforms of the Indian and Indian-Antarctic ocean may be associated with northward continent drift. as is the case of Mars (Zimmer. the progress was restricted to mere biomass increase. This lack of uniformity may trigger change in the outer-core convection and may show up at the lower-mantle or shallower depths (Aubert et al. 2002). the pace of biosphere evolution has been very uneven. 8. The Earth is open to effects from both the interplanetary (low-orbit) and intergalactic space. as a result of nonuniform crystallization of its surface under the effect from the outer core base. The same mechanism may have bearing on the fact that supercontinents formed alternately in the Northern or Southern Hemispheres (Bozhko and Barkin. have another consequence of changing the geoid (its oblate shape) and.E. as well as further mountain growth. bolids. independent of the outer core and other geospheres. The two halves of the inner core were discovered to be rheologically dissimilar. 2006). up to the culmination with the advent of Homo sapiens and the initiation of the noosphere. with dominant present compression and subsidence in the Arctic opposed to extension and uplift in the Antarctic (Goncharov. The growth of the Andes caused climate drying in the East Pacific coast. 2009). which can rise as high as the ionosphere and thus make earthquakes detectable at that height.. The rotation is likewise responsible for the asymmetry of the N–S mid-ocean ridges (Scoppola et al. for two billion years before the first appearance of eukaryotes in the Middle Paleoproterozoic and metazoans in the Mesoproterozoic. exerts influence on lithospheric processes. 2009.V. The idea by V. 1988).5 Ga. The nonuniform rotation of the Earth. the geospheres behave independently and. Large lithospheric earthquakes result in high radon emanation along seismogenic faults. the mechanic effect from the tides was assumed to dissipate in the lithosphere in the . with the ensuing acceleration of erosion and further rapid growth of the Himalayas in the places where they became cut by the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. 2009). 2008). The most spectacular examples of the interplanetary effects are the solar and lunar tides.
As for the bolid impact. which was discovered by A.7 Ga. and Paleoasian). 2009). more influence may come from the points when the Galaxy’s spiral arms bearing most of its matter cross the Solar System. which had completed 850–750 Ma ago and gave rise to several oceans (Pacific.. in turn. Our Galaxy being nonuniform and helical. the emergence of free oxygen. The latter phenomenon has received recent attention as a possible cause of cyclicity in tectonic and eustatic events (Avsyuk. and that may have been the case of the Tunguska event of 1908. 2001). the Earth must undergo periodic effects from the ambient space (Nechaev.g. The geodynamic implications of the galactic comet impact remain unclear but its very possibility is to be taken into account. both on the land and in the ocean. occasionally became shorter. probably. coming possibly from the lower mantle. closed to form orogens that are currently recorded in granulite-gneiss belts. stars and gas-dust nebulas in it are distributed very unevenly. During the third stage. Prototethys. the orbital period of the Solar System rotating about the Galaxy center.. The eon presumably ended with disastrous bolid bombardment and ensuing overturn of the magma ocean and complete recycling of the primitive crust. when the hydrosphere definitely emerged. These periodic changes may control the deep-seated and surface processes on the Earth. The second stage of Archaeogean corresponds to the Early and Middle Archean of the classical ICS time scale. the Bertrand tectonic cycle was noted long ago to have a duration similar to the galactic year. Ditz) have been increasingly often discovered. That was the onset of plate tectonics. the Solar System may periodically approach large gas-dust clusters at every 300–500 Myr. Iapetus. The large continent of Gondwana formed in the Southern Hemisphere at the Neoproterozoic/Cambrian boundary and then joined with continents of the Northern Hemisphere into Pangea. coincides with the Hadean eon. and the Earth will turn into a planet similar to present Mars. and the distance between the Earth and the Moon. however. 12. the last stage of the planet history. and it partly broke up in the Middle Mesoproterozoic. It started with the Rodinia dispersal. whose consolidation culminated at the Mesoproterozoic/Neoproterozoic boundary. All geological and geodynamic processes and events on the Earth have been cyclic. There are cycles of about .and 22-year cycles of solar activity. In the long run one may expect that the interior activity of the planet will die out. with formation of the magma ocean. specifically. The crust and the lithosphere approached their present thicknesses and became prone to brittle deformation and injection of mafic dikes through the stable fault net.e.L. The fourth stage. Ocean closure led to another supercontinent amalgamation at 1. and the inception of eukaryotes and then the metazoans. corresponding to the Late Archean. during its motion on the galactic orbit as part of the Solar System. basaltic) crust.5 Ga) was marked by the assembly of the Earth’s first supercontinent with a sedimentary (detrital-carbonate) and volcanic cover. i. and the ammonia-methane atmos- phere. also through the earlier Earth’s history. The impacts of this kind are known to have been periodically intensified through the Phanerozoic and. According to recent evidence. The Solar System moving on the elliptical galactic orbit experiences periodic contraction and expansion. but the very high-velocity impact should show up anyhow. 2004. 2002) suggest their linkage with plume activity responsible. It transformed into a later supercontinent known as Rodinia. for the origin of large igneous provinces. The material of these comets apparently dissipates in the atmosphere above the Earth’s surface. Then it was formation of the magnetosphere and the biosphere and production of TTG protocontinental crust which likely clustered in the equatorial belt and then dispersed. 200–250 Myr. can be essential geodynamic agents. 2002) the Earth might be subject to besides the bolid impacts. the fragments of the protocontinent became surrounded with volcanic arcs and greenstone belts and transformed into granitic greenstone provinces. Einstein and have been a subject of search by American astrophysicists. The Neogean. Khain / Russian Geology and Geophysics 51 (2010) 587–591 same way as in the ocean. Sankaran. The intergalactic effects may include also impacts of galactic comets (Barenbaum. though generally increasing. the primitive (possibly.590 V. 11. fully governed by the plate tectonics. 13. and alkaline rocks appeared. the Protogean. as well as magnetic and gravity changes. Furthermore. The continent dispersal produced oceans which. at a period commensurate with the Wilson cycle. normal K-Na granites melted out of the middle crust. Another remarkable point is the correlation of seismic and volcanic activity on the Earth with the 11.9–1. spanning the Early and Middle Proterozoic. the Eogean. with spreading and subduction. Isley and Abbott. Many scientists invoke them as possible triggers of biotic events. The end of the stage (2. having left its fragments to be found now among rocks of different continents. 2008). The emergence of the hydrosphere and the biosphere during that eon is questionable. the tides. and some (e. the lithosphere will no longer be split into plates. or. Still more enigmatic is the effect from the so-called long gravity waves which were predicted by A. The supercontinent was subject to rapakivi-granite plutonism and injection of diamond-bearing kimberlites.E. including the biosphere dynamics. Or. the Earth’s last supercontinent. The first stage. the Deuterogean. Chizhevsky and has been supported by recent data (Khain and Khalilov. and by the earliest continental glaciation. metamorphism in the lower crust reached the granulite facies. and was the time when the originally homogeneous Earth first developed its iron core and silicate mantle. There are several stages in the Earth’s history that lack proper understanding. Thus. the impact craters (called astroblems by R. began with the breakup of the first supercontinent. magmatism will fade. encompasses the Neoproterozoic and the Phanerozoic.7–2. The dispersal of Pangea began in the Early Jurassic (200–180 Ma) and eventually led to the present framework of continents and oceans. As for the intergalactic forcing. together with convection.
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