Plates vs Plumes: A Geological Controversy / Edition 1

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The current debate over whether mantle plumes exist, and if not what causes melting anomalies (“hot spots”) is highly topical. Although skepticism concerning the mantle plume model has existed since its inception in the early 1970s, it is only since about the year 2000 that this has become widely known. This news struck many like a bombshell because, since the inception of the plume model, a whole generation of Earth scientists had grown up essentially assuming the model to be true and never having been introduced to the notion that it might not be.

As a result, there has been over the last few years an explosion of interest in challenging the mantle plume hypothesis. In particular the style of undergraduate teaching has changed radically. Some universities now run courses or parts of courses solely dedicated to the mantle plume debate, and undergraduate textbooks that touch upon the subject of “hot spots” are being revised.

No textbook dedicated to the subject currently exists, however. Researchers, undergraduates and post-graduates rely mostly on the website that the author maintains, There is thus a clear gap in the textbook literature.

The main thrust of the book I propose here is to present and explain non-plume (“alternative”) models for melting anomalies (“hot spots”) on Earth’s surface. The prose will require some critique of plume models, but this will take a subsidiary role to avoid giving the book a negative tone.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Nevertheless I strongly recommend this book both for students and researchers. It is ideal for use in classroom discussion projects, or in “lunch time discussion” meetings. It is clearly written and well illustrated and includes hundreds of useful references as recent as 2010.” (Bull Volcanol, 3 April 2012)

“As such, it is a valuable work for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, but also for researchers from many specialties in geology, geophysics, geochemistry and geography.” (Pure and Applied Geophysics, 1 April 2013)

"It is highly recommended to all OUGS members, who could consider reading the first and last chapters, together with one or two of the main chapters, as a minimum." (Open University Geological Society Journal, 1 November 2011)

"In general, I found the book crisply and clearly written, easy to read, and liberally illustrated. It is also a wonderful summary of a wide range of volcanic provinces in time and space, as well as a provocative review of what we think we know and don't know of Planet Earth and deep mantle dynamics. It will be an invaluable resource for teachers of Earth science, ranging from geomorphologists to volcanologists." (Geobulletin, 1 March 2011)

"This is knee-deep geophysics, but too fascinating to put down. As the title says, there are conflicting views of how and why the earth recycles itself...very strong views. . . It goes to great lengths to explain the theories of continental drift through plate tectonics that took half a century to be accepted by mainstream geology." (Janet Tanaka, 2011)

"This new textbook is ideal for a graduate-level seminar on the ongoing controversy over plumes." (, 2011)

"I have much pleasure in recommending this book, a distillation of global geodynamics information and ideas by a true leader in the field, for the libraries of institutions and individuals." (Current Science, 1 January 2011)

"At the end I may say that this is must read book for igneous petrologists and students." (Journal of the Geological Society of India, 1 March 2011)

"One cannot help being impressed by the breadth of material presented in this book . . . in concluding this review I have to admit to being impressed by the book even though my own work comes in for a fair amount of bashing in it. I was struck by the parallels between the plume controversy and the granite controversy, which in various ways dominated igneous petrology in the first half of the twentieth century." (Mantleplumes, 2011)

"This text is well written and easy to digest for the educated reader. Bullet points make it easy to skim read and pick the sections that interest you. It probably best suits advanced undergraduates and postgraduate students and would make a good text for courses in petrology, geophysics, or basin analysis." (The Observatory, 1 April 2011) "This new textbook is ideal for a graduate-level seminar on the ongoing controversy over plumes."

(Andrew Alden - Andrew's Geology Blog, 18 November 2010)

"This text is well written and easy to digest for the educated reader. . . it probably best suits advanced undergraduates and postgraduate students and would make a good text for courses in petrology, geophysics or basin analysis." (The Observatory - Newsletter of the Royal Astronomical Society, 29 November 2010)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781444336795
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 364
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gillian Foulger is Professor of Geophysics at the University of Durham where she has worked since 1985 on earthquake seismology and plate tectonics. She lived and researched in Iceland for seven years, where she acquired a mistrust of theories that do not fit practical observations without contortion. She manages the world-famous website and is widely acclaimed for leading the global debate regarding the existence of mantle plumes. For this she was awarded the prestigious Price Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society in 2005.
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Table of Contents

1. From plate tectonics to plumes, and back again.

1.1 Volcanoes, and exceptional volcanoe.

1.2 Early beginnings: Continental drift and its rejection.

1.3 Emergence of the Plume hypothesis.

1.4 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

1.5 Lists of plumes.

1.6 Testing plume predictions.

1.7 A quick tour of Hawaii and Iceland.

1.8 Moving on: Holism and alternatives.

1.9 The Plate hypothesis.

1.10 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

1.11 Testing the Plate hypothesis.

1.12 Revisiting Hawaii and Iceland.

1.13 Questions and problems.

1.14 Exercises for the student.

2. Vertical motions.

2.1 Introduction.

2.2 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

2.3 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

2.4 Comparison of the predictions of the Plume and Plate hypotheses.

2.5 Observations.

2.6 Plume variants.

2.7 Discussion.

2.8 Exercises for the student.

3. Volcanism.

3.1 Introduction.

3.2 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

3.3 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

3.4 Comparison of the predictions of the Plume and Plate hypotheses.

3.5 Observations.

3.6 Plume variants.

3.7 Discussion.

3.8 Exercises for the student.

4. Time progressions and relative fixity of melting anomalies.

4.1 Introduction.

4.2 Methods.

4.3 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

4.4 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

4.5 Observations.

4.6 Hotspot reference frames.

4.7 Plume variants.

4.8 Discussion.

4.9 Exercises for the student.

5. Seismology.

5.1 Introduction.

5.2 Seismological techniques.

5.3 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

5.4 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

5.5 Observations.

5.6 Global observations.

5.7 Plume variants.

5.8 Discussion.

5.9 Exercises for the student.

6. Temperature and heat.

6.1 Introduction.

6.2 Methods.

6.3 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

6.4 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

6.5 Observations.

6.6 Variants of the Plume hypothesis.

6.7 Discussion.

6.8 Exercises for the student.

7. Petrology and geochemistry.

7.1 Introduction.

7.2 Some basics.

7.3 Predictions of the Plume hypothesis.

7.4 Predictions of the Plate hypothesis.

7.5 Proposed deep-mantle- and core-mantle-boundary tracers.

7.6 A few highlights from melting anomalies.

7.7 Plume variants.

7.8 Discussion.

7.9 Exercises for the student.

8. Synthesis.

8.1 Introduction.

8.2 Mantle convection.

8.3 An unfalsifiable hypothesis.

8.4 Diversity: a smoking gun.

8.5 The need for joined-up science.

8.6 The future.

8.7 Exercises for the student.



Colour plate section (starting after page 180).

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