Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's missing in these hotspot volcanic models? Answer: geokinematics

Three recent "hotspot" papers (Ballmer et al., 2009, 2010, and Presnall & Gudfinnsson, 2011) share a common feature. They are missing something -- a piece of evidence which none of the three confront: geokinematics. In fairness, however, first, these papers are not unique; and, second, the authors could with equal validity claim that geokinematics papers neglect geochemical and geodynamic models, too.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Refocus: The Hotspot-Plume Debate

[Incomplete draft, 2003]
In recent years the ongoing hotspot-plume debate has seemingly increased in intensity, extending beyond refereed publications to sometimes passionate exchanges in opinion and letters sections of organization newsletters and even the popular scientific press. Some of the debate is reminiscent of a political exchange. Assertions are sometimes imprecise or misleading, while counter assertions ignore the initial assertion, providing a response that raises entirely new and different issues. Like ships passing in the night, the debate seems to involve much more miss than hit. Rather than continue this sequence of mixed metaphors, it is preferable to try to refocus the debate. What are the fixed hotspot [1,2] and plume [2,3] hypotheses (while coupled, they can be viewed as separate proposals – either complementary or even competing)? What evidence have we to consider in elaborating and testing the hypotheses? Can we perhaps come to a minimal consensus on these basics, as a basis for progress in future research? This note is an attempt to bring some clarity to the debate while introducing some pertinent observations from both recently published research and earlier, yellowing publications.

Plate and Subplate Interactions, U.S. Cordillera (2005)

Plate and Subplate Interactions: Understanding U.S. Cordilleran Tectonics in the Late Mesozoic and Cenozoic

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jack Oliver, RIP

Jack Oliver
Another of the giants is gone. As inspiring as his ground-breaking (pun intended) contributions were, Jack Oliver was also a very generous man. I, as a young professor, enjoyed and valued my brief interactions with him during visits to Cornell, in seminars, and in various research-planning workshops. RIP

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Further confirmation of hotspot trace overprinting: the end of the "super swell"?

Jackson et al. (2010, p. 17) write 
When backtracked through time using the plate motion model of Wessel and Kroenke [2008], the Rurutu hot spot passed through the WESAM province in the region of Bayonnaise seamount, then its trajectory bent to the northwest with the production of the Gilbert chain (Figure 7). The Macdonald hot spot [Hémond et al., 1994] back-tracks through the ESAM, and the hot spot reconstruction model has the chain turning northeast through the Tokelau chain [see also Koppers and Staudigel, 2005]. The reconstructed path of the Rarotonga hot spot passes along the southern fringes of the Samoan hot spot and trends through the Enriched Mantle 1 (EM1) seamounts in the Western Pacific Seamount Province (WSPC [Koppers et al., 2003]). Lending credence to the plate reconstructions, each lineament exhibits isotopic affinities with its respective active hot spot [Konter et al., 2008]. In summary, evidence from plate motion models supports the hypothesis of a “hot spot highway”: Older volcanism left over from three earlier hot spots could be present in the Samoan region.
Their interpretation is in accord, almost fully, with my previous observations:

Hotspot Frames and Shear-wave Tomography

Wagner, Forsyth, Fouch, and James (2010) have produced an intriguing model of the shear wave velocity structure beneath the northwestern US from Rayleigh wave tomography. I've calculated the predicted locus of the the Yellowstone hotspot relative to stable North America and plotted it (Fig.1) on top of their Fig. 8, (-3 percent velocity variation).

Figure 1. Wagner et al.'s (2010) Fig. 8, showing the -3 percent shear velocity anomaly, overlain by calculated locus of Yellowstone hotspot, present to 50 Ma, relative to stable North America (red line and solid circles every five m.y., calculated using Africa-hotspot parameters of Müller et al., 1993, time scale of Gradstein et al., 2005, North American-Africa parameters of Müller et al., and spline interpolation method of Pilger, 2003). The -3 percent anomaly ranges in apparent depth from ~60 to ~140 km, with the greatest apparent lateral extent at ~60 to ~80 km, from Wagner et al.'s Fig. 7. (Click graphic to enlarge, then back button to return to post.)