Anomalous Late Jurassic motion of the Pacific Plate with implications for true polar wander

Fu, Roger; Kent, Dennis V.

True polar wander, or TPW, is the rotation of the entire mantle–crust system about an equatorial axis that results in a coherent velocity contribution for all lithospheric plates. One of the most recent candidate TPW events consists of a ∼30◦ rotation during Late Jurassic time (160–145 Ma). However, existing paleomagnetic documentation of this event derives exclusively from continents, which compose less than 50% of the Earth’s surface area and may not reflect motion of the entire mantle–crust system. Additional paleopositional information from the Pacific Basin would significantly enhance coverage of the Earth’s surface and allow more rigorous testing for the occurrence of TPW. We perform paleomagnetic analyses on core samples from Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 801B, which were taken from the oldest available Pacific crust, to determine its paleolatitude during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous (167–133 Ma). We find that the Pacific Plate underwent a steady southward drift of 0.49◦–0.74◦ My−1 except for an interval between Kimmeridgian and Tithonian time (157–147 Ma), during which it underwent northward motion at 1.45◦ ± 0.76◦ My−1 (1σ ). This trajectory indicates that the plates of the Pacific Basin participated in the same large-amplitude (∼30◦) rotation as continental lithosphere in the 160–145 Ma interval. Such coherent motion of a large majority of the Earth’s surface strongly supports the occurrence of TPW, suggesting that a combination of subducting slabs and rising mantle plumes was sufficient to significantly perturb the Earth’s inertia tensor in the Late Jurassic.


Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
October 10, 2018