Plate tectonics and the evolution of climate

Norman Sleep, Stanford University, Department of Geophysics

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Recent work has shown that climate, life, and tectonics interact in ways that are sometimes profound yet not obvious. Norman Sleep reviews two better understood terrestrial examples in this paper. First, the development of compressional orogens is strongly influenced by climate in that the extent of erosion determines whether high or low mountain ranges develop. Second, global geochemical processes are strongly influenced by tectonics and climate. For example, the build-up of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere has been aided by deposit of organic-rich sediments in new ocean basins which prevented reaction of the oxygen with the reduced products of photosynthesis. The volume of the ocean depends on the extent to which water is subducted within the oceanic crust and sediments and on the extent which this water is returned to the surface at island arcs. Comparative planetology and further terrestrial studies are likely to yield additional examples of climatic, biological, and tectonic interaction.

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Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geophysics:Geodesy
Resource Type: Scientific Resources:Overview/Reference Work
Grade Level: Graduate/Professional, College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geophysics, Geodesy