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True polar wander associated with continental drift on a hypothetical Earth


Long-term true polar wander of the Earth (TPW) has generally been discussed by taking into account con-vective processes in the mantle such as downgoing slabs and upwelling plumes. Here I examined a relationship between continental drift and TPW on a hypothetical Earth with no such convective processes in the mantle. I evaluated temporal changes in moments of inertia owing to continental drift during a period of ~250 Ma based on a paleogeographic reconstruction, in which I estimated the lateral density heterogeneities by factoring in the observed mean land elevation of continents and average age of the oceanic lithosphere. The predictions for a viscoelastic Earth model with plausible viscosity models indicate that the long-term TPW might have been affected by continental drift throughout Cenozoic and Mesozoic times, which has wholly proceeded by maintaining isostasy at a certain depth, as well as convective processes in the mantle.


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Correspondence to Masao Nakada.

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Nakada, M. True polar wander associated with continental drift on a hypothetical Earth. Earth Planet Sp 59, 513–522 (2007).

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Key words

  • Earth’s rotation, true polar wander
  • continental drift
  • Maxwell viscoelasticity
  • viscosity
  • Love number