Paleomagnetism of 122 Ma Plutons in New England and the Mid-Cretaceous Paleomagnetic Field in North America: True Polar Wander or Large-Scale Differential Mantle Motion?
A paleomagnetic study of Cretaceous White Mountains plutonic complexes in New Hampshire and Vermont yields high unblocking temperature, dual polarity magnetizations in different types of igneous rocks. The resulting pole position for three plutons (71.9° N, 187.4° E, A_95 = 6.9°, age = 122.5 Ma) agrees with previously published mid-Cretaceous poles for North America, which together give a mid-Cretaceous standstill reference pole slightly revised from Globerman and Irving  at 71.2° N, 194.1° E (A_95 = 3.7°, N = 5 studies). We argue on the basis of the wide geographic distribution of these studies, the variety in tectonic settings and rock types, positive reversal tests, and an overall reversal pattern consistent with geomagnetic polarity time scales, that this mean pole represents the North American mid-Cretaceous reference field for nominally 36 m.y. (124 to 88 Ma). The standstill pole limits to within ±4°, the motion of the North American plate relative to the Earth's spin axis. During the same mid-Cretaceous interval, the New England hotspot track (124 Ma Monteregian Hills, 122.5-Ma Cretaceous White Mountains, and 103- to 84-Ma New England seamounts) requires 11°±4° of north-poleward motion of North America, in direct conflict with the paleomagnetic standstill. A similar (~13°) discrepancy is independently demonstrated between the spin axis and the Tristan da Cunha hotspot track on the African plate during the mid-Cretaceous interval. The hotspot/spin axis discrepancies ended by ~90 Ma when it is shown that both Atlantic hotspots agree with North American and African dipole paleolatitudes and present-day locations. Nondipole fields are an unlikely explanation of the uniform motion of these two widely separated hotspots with respect to the spin axis, leaving as possible interpretations true polar wander and large-scale (but differential) mantle motion. The southerly motion of the mid-Cretaceous Louisville hotspot relative to the spin axis is ostensively at odds with what would be predicted under the true polar wander interpretation and points to differential mantle kinematics. The motions of the three widely separated mid-Cretaceous hotspots with respect to the spin axis may be related to the recently proposed increase in global oceanic lithosphere production rates which gave rise to the mid-Cretaceous "superplume."
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- Journal of Geophysical Research
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- Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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- August 30, 2011