A geotectonic paradox: Has the Earth expanded?

Main Article Content

P.W. Schmidt
B.J.J. Embleton


From the recognition of common apparent polar-wander (CAPW) paths for Africa, Australia, Greenland, and North America in the early Proterozoic, we have deduced that these continents today occupy approximately the same relative locations on the globe as they did in the early Proterozoic. However, there is abundant geochemical, geological, geochronological and tectonic evidence for landmasses having been much less dispersed in the Precambrian than they are now. It is shown in this paper that an Earth of about half the present radius accomodates the present continents in such a manner that this paradox can be satisfactorily resolved, and we propose that between about 1,600 Myr and 1,000 Myr ago, the Earth expanded to approximately its present dimensions. A change  from Proterozoic to Phanerozoic tectonic styles is supported.

Google Scholar         ARK:/88439/y034403


Article Details

How to Cite
Schmidt, P.W., and B.J.J. Embleton. 1981. “A Geotectonic Paradox: Has the Earth Expanded?”. Journal of Geophysics 49 (1), 20-25. https://journal.geophysicsjournal.com/JofG/article/view/34.
Bookmark and Share


Anheusser, C.R., Mason, R., Viljoen, M.J., Vilgoen, R.P.: A reappraisal of some aspects of Precambrian shield geology. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 80, 2175-2200, 1969

Briden, J.C.: Applicability of plate tectonics to pre-Mesozoic time. Nature 244, 400-405, 1973

Burke, K., Dewey, J.F., Kidd, W.S.F.: Precambrian palaeomagnetic results compatible with contemporary operation of the Wilson Cycle. Tectonophysics 33, 287-299, 1976

Carey, S.W .. The expanding earth. Amsterdam: Elsevier 1976

Cavanaugh, M.D., Seyfert, C.K.: Apparent polar wander paths and the joining of the Superior and Slave provinces during Proterozoic time. Geology 5, 207-211, 1977

Clifford, T.M.: Radiometric dating and the pre-Silurian geology of Africa. In: Radiometric dating for geologists, E.I. Hamilton and R.M. Farquhar, eds.: pp. 299-416. New York: Interscience 1968

Cox, A., Doell, A.R.: Palaeomagnetic evidence relevant to a change in the earth's radius. Nature 189, 45-47, 1961

Creer, K.M.: An expanding earth? Nature 205, 539-544, 1965

Creer, K.M., Irving, E., Runcorn, S.K.: Geophysical interpretation of palaeomagnetic directions from Greater Britain. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A:250, 144-156, 1957

Embleton, B.J.J., Schmidt, P.W. ·Recognition of common Precambrian polar wandering: a conflict with plate tectonics. Nature 282, 705-707, 1979

Engel, A.E.J., Keirn, D.L.: Pre-Permian global tectonics: A tectonic test. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 83, 2325-2340, 1972

Fisher, R.A.: Dispersion on a sphere. Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A :217. 295-305, 1953

Glikson, A.Y.: Archaen to early Proterozoic shield elements: relevance of plate tectonics. Geol. Assoc. Can., Spec. Pap. 14, 489-516, 1976

Glikson, A.Y.: The missing Precambrian crust. Geology 7, 449-454, 1979

Graham, K.W.T., Hales, A.L.: Palaeomagnetic measurements on Karroo Dolerites. Philos. Mag. [Suppl., Adv. Phys.] 6, 149-161, 1957

Hargraves, R.B.: Precambrian geologic history. Science 193, 363-371, 1976

Hilten, D. Van: Global expansion and palaeomagnetic data. Tectonophysics 5, 191-210, 1968

Hurley, R.M., Rand, J.R.: Pre-drift continental nuclei. Science 164. 1229-1242, 1969

Irving, E. : Drift of the major continental blocks since the Devonian. Nature 270, 304-309, 1977

Irving, E.: Paleopoles and paleolatitudes of North America and speculations about displaced terrains. Can. J. Earth Sci. 16, 669-694, 1979

Irving, E., Green R.: Polar wandering relative to Australia. Geophys. J.R. Astron. Soc. 1, 64-72, 1958

Irving, E., McGlynn, J.C.: Proterozoic magnetostratigraphy and the tectonic evolution of the Laurentia. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A: 280, 243-265, 1976

Irving, E., McGlynn, J.G.: Palaeomagnetism in the Coronation Geosyncline and arrangement of the continents in the middle Proterozoic. Geophys. J.R. Astron. Soc. 58, 309-336, 1979

Irving, E., Park, J.K.: Hairpins and superintervals. Can. J. Earth Sci. 9, 1318-1324, 1972

McElhinny, M.W., Embleton, B.J.J.: Precambrian and early Palaeozoic palaeomagnetism in Australia. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A:280, 417-431, 1976

McElhinny, M.W., McWilliams, M.O.: Precambrian geodynamics ~ a palaeomagnetic view. Tectonophysics 40, 137-159, 1977

McElhinny, M.W., Taylor, S.R., Stevenson, D.J.: Limits to the expansion of Earth, Moon, Mars and Mercury and to changes in the gravitational constant. Nature 271, 316-321, 1978

Moor bath, S.: The oldest rocks and the growth of continents. Sci. Am. 236, 92-104, 1977

Morel, P., Irving, E.: Tentative palaeo-continental maps for the early Phanerozoic and Proterozoic. J. Geol. 86, 535-561, 1978

Piper, J.D.A.: Proterozoic crustal distribution, mobile belts, and apparent polar movements. Nature 251, 381-384, 1974

Piper, J.D.A.: Palaeomagnetic evidence for a Proterozoic supercontinent. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A:280, 469-490, 1976

Piper, J.D.A., Briden, J.C., Lomax, K.: Precambrian Africa and South America as a single continent. Nature 245, 244-248, 1973

Piper, J.D.A., Stearn, J.E.F.: Palaeomagnetism of Ketilidian meta morphic rocks of S.W. Greenland, 1850-1600 m.y. apparent polar movements. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 13, 143-156, 1976

Roy, J.L., Lapointe, P.L.: The palaeomagnetism of Huronian red beds and Nipissing diabase; Post-Huronian Igneous Events and apparent polar path for the interval -2,300 to -1,500 Ma for Laurentia.
Can. J. Earth Sci. 13, 749-773, 1976

Roy, J.L., Morris, W.A., Lapointe, P.L., Irving, E., Park, J.K., Schmidt, P.W.: Apparent polar wander paths and the joining of the Superior and Slave provinces during early Proterozoic times: Comment. Geology 6, 132-133, 1978

Runcorn, S.K.: Palaeomagnetic comparisons between Europe and North America. Proc. Geol. Assoc. Can. 8, 77-85, 1956

Schmidt, P.W., Clark, D.A.; The response of palaeomagnetic data to Earth expansion. Geophys. J.R. Astron. Soc. 61, 95-100, 1980

Scotese, C.R., Bambach, R.K., Barton, C., Vander Voo, R., Ziegler, A.M.: Paleozoic base maps. J. Geol. 87, 217-277, 1979

Sears, J.W., Price, R.A.: The Siberian connection: a case for Precambrian separation of the North American and Siberian craton. Geology 6, 267-270, 1978

Shackleton, R.M.: Displacement within continents. In: Time and place in orogeny. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Pub!. 3, 1-7, 1969

Smith, A. G., Briden, J.C., Drewry, G.E.: Phanerozoic world maps. In: Organisms and continents through time. Spec. Pap. Palaeontol. 12, 1-42, 1973

Smith, A. G., Hallam, A.: The fit of the southern continents. Nature 225, 139-144, 1970

Sutton, J., Watson, J.V.: Tectonic evolution of continents in early Proterozoic times. Nature 247, 433-435, 1974

Ward, M.A .. On detecting changes in the Earth's radius. Geophys. J.R. Astron. Soc. 8, 217-225, 1963

Ward, M.A.: Comments on detecting changes in the Earth's radius. Geophys. J.R. Astron. Soc. 10, 445-447, 1966