Thorsten W Becker
Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences, Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Oden Institute for Computational Engineering & Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin
Despite being exposed to convective stresses for much of the Earth's history, cratonic roots appear capable of resisting mantle shearing. This tectonic stability can be attributed to the neutral density and higher strength of cratons. However, the excess thickness of cratons and their higher viscosity amplify coupling to underlying mantle flow, which could be destabilizing. To investigate the stresses that a convecting mantle exerts on cratons that are both strong and thick, we developed instantaneous global spherical numerical models that incorporate present-day geoemetry of cratons within active mantle flow. Our results show that mantle flow is diverted downward beneath thick and viscous cratonic roots, giving rise to a ring of elevated and inwardly-convergent tractions along a craton’s periphery. These tractions induce regional compressive stress regimes within cratonic interiors. Such compression could serve to stabilize older continental lithosphere against mantle shearing, thus adding an additional factor that promotes cratonic longevity.