Ocean-floor topography-age correlation challenged

One of the elements comprising the canon of plate tectonics is that as plates spread away from constructive margins the depth to the ocean floor increases in direct proportion to the square root of the underling lithosphere’s age. This is generally considered to reflect steady passive cooling and increasing density of initially hot lithosphere produced at ridge systems. The resulting slope of the ocean floor is said to result in one of the gravitational forces that sustain plate tectonics – ‘ridge slide’. The Pacific Ocean floor is a good test for the hypothesis, but unfortunately does not show a linear depth vs Öage relationship (Adam, C. & Vidal, V. 2010. Mantle flow drives the subsidence of oceanic plates. Science, v. 328, p. 83-85). Instead, the ocean floor flattens out beyond a threshold distance, which has been a source of puzzlement for decades. However, a plot of depth against the square root of distance from the ridge along estimated lines of mantle convective flow is consistently linear. The depth curve seems therefore to reflect past changes in the direction of sea-floor spreading and changes in the deeper mantle convection, thereby linking reality to the original model for continental drift that had mantle convection at its heart. That view was discarded by geophysicists on account of a widespread belief that the asthenosphere was too weak to transmit forces from below to the rigid lithospheric plates.


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