Paleomagnetic evidence for modern-like plate motion velocities at 3.2 Ga

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© 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). The mode and rates of tectonic processes and lithospheric growth during the Archean [4.0 to 2.5 billion years (Ga) ago] are subjects of considerable debate. Paleomagnetism may contribute to the discussion by quantifying past plate velocities. We report a paleomagnetic pole for the ~3180 million year (Ma) old Honeyeater Basalt of the East Pilbara Craton, Western Australia, supported by a positive fold test and micromagnetic imaging. Comparison of the 44°±15° Honeyeater Basalt paleolatitude with previously reported paleolatitudes requires that the average latitudinal drift rate of the East Pilbara was ≥2.5 cm/year during the ~170 Ma preceding 3180 Ma ago, a velocity comparable with those of modern plates. This result is the earliest unambiguous evidence yet uncovered for long-range lithospheric motion. Assuming this motion is due primarily to plate motion instead of true polar wander, the result is consistent with uniformitarian or episodic tectonic processes in place by 3.2 Ga ago.

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Science Advances