Growing primordial continental crust self-consistently in global mantle convection models

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Charitra Jain , Antoine Rozel, Paul Tackley, Patrick Sanan, Taras Gerya


The majority of continental crust formed during the hotter Archean was composed of Tonalite-Trondhjemite-Granodiorite (TTG) rocks. In contrast to the present-day loci of crust formation around subduction zones and intra-plate tectonic settings, TTGs are formed when hydrated basalt melts at garnet-amphibolite, granulite or eclogite facies conditions. Generating continental crust requires a two step differentiation process. Basaltic magma is extracted from the pyrolytic mantle, is hydrated, and then partially melts to form continental crust. Here, we parameterise the melt production and melt extraction processes and show self-consistent generation of primordial continental crust using evolutionary thermochemical mantle convection models. To study the growth of TTG and the geodynamic regime of early Earth, we systematically vary the ratio of intrusive (plutonic) and eruptive (volcanic) magmatism, initial core temperature, and internal friction coefficient. As the amount of TTG that can be extracted from the basalt (or basalt-to-TTG production efficiency) is not known, we also test two different values in our simulations, thereby limiting TTG mass to 10% or 50% of basalt mass. For simulations with lower basalt-to-TTG production efficiency, the volume of TTG crust produced is in agreement with net crustal growth models but overall crustal (basaltic and TTG) composition stays more mafic than expected from geochemical data. With higher production efficiency, abundant TTG crust is produced, with a production rate far exceeding typical net crustal growth models but the felsic to mafic crustal ratio follows the expected trend. These modelling results indicate that (i) early Earth exhibited a "plutonic squishy lid" or vertical-tectonics geodynamic regime, (ii) present-day slab-driven subduction was not necessary for the production of early continental crust, and (iii) the Archean Earth was dominated by intrusive magmatism as opposed to "heat-pipe" eruptive magmatism.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


early Earth, mantle convection, Continental Crust, Archean Geodynamics, Archean TTG, Crustal Production, Melting


Published: 2019-05-10 10:16


GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1

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