Internal Planetary Feedbacks, Mantle Dynamics, and Plate Tectonics

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Adrian Lenardic, Johnny Seales


Isolating planetary feedbacks, and feedback analysis, are prevalent aspects of climate and Earth surface process science. An under appreciation of internal planet feedbacks, and feedback analysis for plate tectonics research, motivate this chapter. We review feedbacks that influence the Earth's thermal evolution and expand them to include magmatic history and planetary water budgets. The predictions from feedback models are shown to be consistent with petrological constraints on the Earth's cooling. From there, we isolate feedbacks that connect structural elements within the mantle dynamics and plate tectonics system. The feedbacks allow for a reciprocal causality between plates, plumes, the asthenosphere, and mantle flow patterns, with each element being co-dependent on the others. The linked elements and feedbacks define plate tectonics are part of a self-sustaining flow system that can bootstrap itself into existence. Within that framework, plate tectonics involves the co-arising of critical system factors. No single factor is the cause of another. Rather, they emerge with the links between them and the generation of functional elements coincides, within relatively narrow time windows, with the co-emergence of factors that are critical for the maintenance of the elements themselves. What emerges is not a tectonic state but a process. That is, a set of feedbacks that can transform the tectonics of a planet and/or maintain plate tectonics. The feedback functions are not permanent but can operate over extended time frames such that plate tectonics can remain stable. The nature of the feedbacks, and their stability, can be studied at various levels of detail but questions of origin can become ill-defined. Observational tests of a feedback framework for plate tectonics and mantle dynamics are presented, along with research paths that apply feedback methodology to solid planet dynamics and comparative planetology.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Planetary Geophysics and Seismology, Planetary Sciences, Tectonics and Structure


feedbacks, system dynamics, plate tectonics, mantle convection


Published: 2022-03-18 14:16

Last Updated: 2022-03-18 21:16


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International