Dallas H. Abbott

Archaean plate tectonis revisited; 2, Paleo-sea level changes, continental area, oceanic heat loss and the area-age distribution of the ocean basins

Tectonics(December 1984), 3(7):709-722

Index Terms/Descriptors: accretion; age; Archean; changes; continents; crust; heat flow; ocean basins; oceanic crust; plate tectonics; Precambrian; regression; sea-level changes; tectonophysics; theoretical studies; thermal history; transgression


In a previous paper, we derived plate tectonic models for continental accretion from the early Archaean (3800 m.y. B.P.) until the present. The models are dependent upon the number of continental masses, the seafloor creation rate and the continental surface area. The models can be tested by examining their predictions for three key geological indicators: sea level changes, stable isotopic evolution (e.g., continental surface area), and oceanic heat loss. Models of paleo-sea level changes produced by the accretion of the continents reproduce the following features of earth history: (1) greater continental emergence (lower sea level) during the Archaean than the Proterozoic; (2) maximum continental emergence about 3000 m.y. B.P.; and (3) maximum continental submergence (high sea level) from 30 to 125 m.y. B.P. The high sea level stand between 380-525 m.y. B.P. is only weakly reproduced, probably due to the simplified nature of the model. Changes in the number of continental masses can result in tectonic erosion or accretion of the continents, with resulting changes in sea level. The two major transgressions in the Phanerozoic, although still requiring some increase in the total terrestrial heat loss, can be sucessfully explained by a combination of increases in continental surface area and in seafloor creation rate. Changes in the total heat loss of the ocean basins predicted by our plate tectonic models closely parallel the changes in terrestrial heat production predicted by Wasserburg et al. (1964). This result is consistent with thermal history models which assume whole mantle convection. The history of changes in continental surface area predicted by our best continental accretion models lies within the ranges of estimated continental surface area derived from independent geochemical models of isotope evolution.