Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Deep formation of Earth's earliest continental crust consistent with subduction

Hastie, Alan R., Law, Sally, Bromiley, Geoffrey D., Fitton, J. Godfrey, Harley, Simon L. and Muir, Duncan D. 2023. Deep formation of Earth's earliest continental crust consistent with subduction. Nature Geoscience 16 , pp. 816-821. 10.1038/s41561-023-01249-5

[thumbnail of s41561-023-01249-5.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview


About four billion years ago, Earth’s outer layer is thought to have been composed mostly of a 25- to 50-km-thick basaltic crust that differentiated to form the oldest stable continental crust. However, the tectonic processes responsible for the formation of this continental material remain controversial. Suggested explanations include convergent plate boundary processes akin to subduction operating today and a variety of relatively shallow (<50 km) non-plate-tectonic intracrustal mechanisms. Here we perform high-pressure–temperature melting experiments on an oceanic plateau analogue for the early basaltic crust and show that magmas with the composition of the early continental crust cannot form at pressures <1.4 GPa (~50 km depth). This suggests that Eoarchaean continental magmas are formed in deep (>50 km) subduction-like environments. Our results support previous Eoarchaean field evidence and analyses of igneous rocks that date to 4.0–3.6 billion years ago, which are consistent with subduction-like processes and suggest a primitive type of plate tectonics operated as long as 4 billion years ago on early Earth.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 1752-0894
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 September 2023
Date of Acceptance: 13 July 2023
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2023 14:29

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics