Ocean-plate tectonics

A schematic highlighting the ocean-plate formation, cooling and destruction as part of the planet’s global mantle convection driven by the temperature gradient between its hot deep interior and the cold surface environment. Ocean-Plate Tectonics is the concept that describes not only the horizontal surface motion of the oceanic plate (grey arrow), but also highlights the pull from its subducted portion as the main driver (blue arrow), distinguishes the oceanic plate (dark brown) from its continental counterpart, acknowledges the plate–mantle coupling that induces characteristic regional mantle-flow patterns (black flow lines), and describes the dynamics of the oceanic plate as part of the larger framework of global mantle convection that transports heat out of the interior (light-red arrow).

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nice figure and great site, with a lot of useful ressources!

    I do have a criticism about this particular figure, regarding the heat arrow. It’s great to link mantle dynamics to heat transfer, from the core to the surface, with an increasing amount through the mantle owing to its radiogenic contribution but it is unfortunate that its position coincides with the position of the hot plume. At the surface, such a plume is indeed associated to a larger than “normal” heat flow (although it is not really measured, essentially because of the diffusion time scale across the lithosphere) but the largest contribution to the surface heat flow is from ridges. Moreover, at the bottom of the mantle, the plume root is a position of minimum heat flux since this is where the radial temperature gradient is reduced compared to the surroundings, and particularly the cold plates arriving from the surface. In its current form, the figure could be interpreted as meaning that hot plumes are the main heat carrier in the mantle, which is obviously not the case.

    A better way to represent heat transfer in this schematic, in my opinion, would be to have 6 heat arrows, of different sizes, 2 for each part, one at the bottom and one at the top. They could be of different sizes: big, small, medium from left to right at the bottom, small, medium, big at the top. The average sizes at the top could be larger than at the bottom to express the difference in heat flow (not necessarily heat flux density). In this way, the figure would also show that mantle convection is a global heat transfer process.
    Stéphane

    1. Fabio Crameri

      Thank you, Stéphane. We think your suggestion makes sense and would clarify the global heat transfer mechanism in relation to the mantle and mantle convection. Updating this figure is now added to our to-do list, but if someone else out there is quicker and wants to help out, let us know (-> https://s-ink.org/contribute)! 👍

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