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This site uses cookies. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. Why moving plates? Solid, yielding mantle 5. Convection 6.

The plate mode of convection 7. The plume mode of convection 8. Perspective 9. Evolution and tectonics Mantle chemical evolution Assimilating mantle convection into geology Appendix A. Exponential growth and decay Appendix B. Thermal evolution details Appendix C. Chemical evolution details References Index. He is an internationally honoured geophysicist who has been at the forefront of mantle convection studies for over three decades. He is also the author of the successful graduate textbook Dynamic Earth: Plates, Plumes and Mantle Convection Cambridge University Press, , and over scientific papers.

He has been at the forefront of attempts to reconcile mantle geochemistry with mantle dynamics, and in exploring the implications for the thermal and tectonic evolution of the Earth. Newsletter Google 4. Help pages. Prothero Michael J.

Benton Richard Fortey View All. Go to British Wildlife. Conservation Land Management. Left: A computer-generated image of the Aleutian Trench in violet ; "warm" colors yellow to red indicate topographic highs, and "cool" colors green to blue represent lower elevations. Below: The topography of Artemis Corona, a trench-like feature on Venus, shown at the same vertical and horizontal scale as the Aleutian Trench. Imagery courtesy of David T. Sandwell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Voyager spacecraft discovered several volcanic plumes rising many hundreds of kilometers above the surface of Io, one of the moons of Jupiter and about the size of our Moon.

Arthur Holmes | Geological Society of Glasgow

Scientists speculate that large pools of liquid sulfur may exist on Io, possibly heated by tidal forces resulting from gravitational attraction between Io and Jupiter. The thermal energy generated by such tidal forces may be enough to produce convection in Io's interior, although no one has clearly recognized any surface feature that may have formed from such convection. The surface of Ganymede, another moon of Jupiter and about the size of Mercury, is broken into many plate-like blocks, with long narrow depressions between some of them.

Whether these surface features represent ancient "fossil" plate tectonics, or are actively forming, remains to be answered. Crucial to determining whether plate tectonics is occurring on Ganymede is the search for evidence of a deep ocean beneath its icy surface. Such a body of water, if it exists, might contribute to internal convection. A volcanic plume of sulfur dioxide SO 2 gas rising about km above the surface of Io. This computer-enhanced image was captured "live" by the Voyager 2 spacecraft on 4 March Imagery courtesy of NASA. The rate of heat loss is critical to a planet's tectonic activity.

Size is one determining factor: larger bodies lose heat more slowly and will therefore remain active longer.

Mantle convection

Another factor is composition, which influences the ability of a body to convect. For example, a liquid interior, such as may exist within Ganymede, is more likely to convect and drive plate tectonics than the "stony" interiors of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars.


The amount of radioactive elements present in the planet's composition also affects the likelihood of internal convection, because the decay of these elements produces heat. Apparently, the interiors of the Moon, Mercury, and Mars are either too rigid or have lost too much of their internal heat to convect and drive plate tectonics. Eventually the Earth, too, will lose so much heat that its interior will stop convecting.

Earthquake and volcanic activity will then cease. No new mountains will form, and the geologic cycle of mountain building, erosion, sedimentation, and soil formation will be disrupted and also will cease.