Initiation of plate tectonics in the Hadean: Eclogitization triggered by the ABEL BombardmentOPEN ACCESS 

S. Maruyama, M. Santosh, S. Azuma

Geoscience Frontiers
Available online 9 December 2016


• Presence of water is the most critical factor for plate tectonics
• Bombardment of carbonaceous chondrites delivered water on completely dry Earth
• Eclogitization provided slab-pull force to initiate plate tectonics
• Stagnant lid tectonics shifted to plate tectonics by the ABEL Bombardment”

“When plate tectonics began on the Earth has been long debated and here we argue this topic based on the records of Earth-Moon geology and asteroid belt to conclude that the onset of plate tectonics was during the middle Hadean (between 4.37–4.20 Ga). The trigger of the initiation of plate tectonics is the ABEL Bombardment, which delivered oceanic and atmospheric components on a completely dry reductive Earth, originally comprised of enstatite chondrite-like materials. Through the accretion of volatiles, shock metamorphism processed with vaporization of both CI chondrite and supracrustal rocks at the bombarded location, and significant recrystallization went through under wet conditions, caused considerable eclogitization in the primordial continents composed of felsic upper crust of 21 km thick anorthosite, and 50 km or even thicker KREEP lower crust. Eclogitization must have yielded a powerful slab-pull force to initiate plate tectonics in the middle Hadean. Another important factor is the size of the bombardment. By creating Pacific Ocean class crater by 1000 km across impactor, rigid plate operating stagnant lid tectonics since the early Hadean was severely destroyed, and oceanic lithosphere was generated to have bi-modal lithosphere on the Earth to enable the operation of plate tectonics. Considering the importance of the ABEL Bombardment event which initiated plate tectonics including the appearance of ocean and atmosphere, we propose that the Hadean Eon can be subdivided into three periods: (1) early Hadean (4.57–4.37 Ga), (2) middle Hadean (4.37–4.20 Ga), and (3) late Hadean (4.20–4.00 Ga).”