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Wilson cycle


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A description of the aggregation and break-up of supercontinents. Initially, a hot spot rises up under a craton, heating it, causing it to swell upward, stretch, and thin, not only splitting a continent in two, but also creating a new divergent plate boundary. A new ocean basin is generated between the two new continents, and as this widens (possibly by thousands of miles), wedges of divergent continental margins' sediments accumulate on both new continental edges. All of the above is the opening phase of the Wilson cycle. The closing phase of this cycle begins when a new subduction zone forms at the margin of one of the continents.

Once this zone is active, the ocean basin begins to be subducted, causing the two continents to draw nearer. Magma is generated deep in the subduction zone, rising to the surface to form a cordillera of volcanoes, accompanied by metamorphism, folding, and faulting. When the two continents finally collide, the closing phase of the Wilson cycle is technically over. Because the subduction zone acts as a ramp, the continent with the subduction zone slides up over the edge of the other one. After this collision, the cordillera will be eroded to a peneplain. Most of the upper continent will be eroded away, and the lower continent will eventually return to the Earth's surface. See Russo and Silver (1996) Geology 24 for further explanation on cordillera formation and the Wilson cycle.

http://csmres.jmu.edu/geollab/Fichter/Wilson/Wilson.html Information about the Wilson cycle.

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.


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