Are the Pacific and Indo–Atlantic hotspots fixed? Testing the plate circuit through Antarctica

DiVenere, Victor J.; Kent, Dennis V.

It is often assumed that hotspots are fixed relative to one another and thus constitute a global reference frame for measuring absolute plate motions and true polar wander. But it has long been known that the best documented hotspot track, the Hawaiian–Emperor chain, is inconsistent with the internally coherent tracks left by the Indo–Atlantic hotspots. This inconsistency is due either to unquantified motions within the plate circuit linking the Pacific with other plates, for example, between East and West Antarctica, or relative motion between the Hawaiian–Emperor and Indo–Atlantic hotspots. Analysis of recent paleomagnetic results from Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica confirms that there has been post-100 Ma motion between West Antarctica (Marie Byrd Land) and East Antarctica. However, incorporation of this motion into the plate circuit does not account for the Cenozoic hotspot discrepancy. Comparison of an updated inventory of Pacific and non-Pacific paleomagnetic data does not show a significant systematic discrepancy, which, along with other observations, indicates that missing plate boundaries and other errors in the plate circuit play a relatively small role in the hotspot inconsistency. We conclude that most of the apparent motion between the Hawaiian–Emperor and Indo–Atlantic hotspots is real. The best-estimate average drift rate between these sets of hotspots is approximately 25 mm/yr since 65 Ma, ignoring errors in the plate circuit and a small contribution from Cenozoic motions between East and West Antarctica.

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Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
December 6, 2011