Long-term true polar wander of the Earth including the effects of convective processes in the mantle and continental drift

Masao Nakada

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Long-term true polar wander (TPW) of the Earth was examined by taking into account the effects of simplified convective processes in the Earth's mantle and continental drift. The TPW, for a given viscoelastic earth model, is wholly determined by both the magnitude of non-forcing elements of moment of inertia (I11, I22 and I33) and I12 element of product of inertia, and the rates for forcing elements, dI13/dt and dI23/ dt. The forcing rates are largely related to time-dependent convective processes in the mantle and also continental drift. In this study, I examined the TPW on a convecting mantle with oscillating moments of inertia, inferred from a convective process of alternating degree-one and degree-two structure changes of mantle convection by Zhong et al. (2007). In the phase for a relatively hydrostatic Earth, corresponding to largely degree-one planform, the predicted TPW is sensitive to the viscosity structure of the mantle, particularly to the lithospheric viscosity structure, and its magnitude may be larger than ∼30° even for the forcing rates with ∼1030 kg m2 Myr-1 related to continental drift (Dickman 1979). In the phase for a non-hydrostatic Earth characterized by largely degree-two planform such as for the present-day, however, the TPW is less sensitive to the viscosity structure, and its magnitude may be ∼10° at most. These results may provide quantitative constraints on examining relationship between rheological structure and convective processes in the mantle, continental drift and TPW.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1244
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 5 2008


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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