Research ArticleGEOLOGY

Seismological evidence for the earliest global subduction network at 2 Ga ago

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Science Advances  05 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 32, eabc5491
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc5491


The earliest evidence for subduction, which could have been localized, does not signify when plate tectonics became a global phenomenon. To test the antiquity of global subduction, we investigated Paleoproterozoic time, for which seismic evidence is available from multiple continents. We used a new high-density seismic array in North China to image the crustal structure that exhibits a dipping Moho bearing close resemblance to that of the modern Himalaya. The relict collisional zone is Paleoproterozoic in age and implies subduction operating at least as early as ~2 billion years (Ga) ago. Seismic evidence of subduction from six continents at this age is interpreted as the oldest evidence of global plate tectonics. The sutures identified can be linked in a plate network that resulted in the assembly of Nuna, likely Earth’s first supercontinent. Global subduction by ~2 Ga ago can explain why secular planetary cooling was not appreciable until Proterozoic time.

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