Geoscience: New Ideas for Early Earth Dynamics

Geoscience: New Ideas for Early Earth Dynamics

Harla Sherwood

National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.



NIA RELEASE: 2013-29


Geoscience: New Ideas for Early Earth Dynamics


Early Earth had very different internal dynamics from today, and may have resembled Jupiter’s volcanically active moon, Io, a modelling study in Nature, Volume 7468, suggests. The work offers a new perspective on the earliest geology of Earth.


In the present day, the release of Earth’s internal heat into space is facilitated by plate tectonics, but the heat transport and dynamics of the surface when Earth was younger and hotter are poorly understood. William Moore and Alexander Webb explore a new hypothesis to investigate what happened between the early magma ocean and the onset of plate tectonics. Modelling indicates that Earth may have had a single plate with many volcanic pipes shooting out heat and cycling materials from the surface downwards. Their predictions are supported by geological evidence, and they go on to suggest that declining heat sources over time led to an abrupt transition to plate tectonics.


This so-called “heat pipe” model is similar to what is happening on Io, and offers a coherent geodynamic framework with which to explore the evolution of our planet before the onset of plate tectonics.


Dr. William Moore is a Hampton University Professor of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences in Residence at the National Institute of Aerospace.


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