Although plate tectonics started as a theory of the ocean basins nearly 50 years ago, the mechanical details of how it works are still poorly known. Our understanding of these details has been hampered partly by our inability to characterize the physical nature of the lithosphereasthenosphere system (LAS) beneath the ocean. We review the existing observational constraints on the seismic and electrical properties of the LAS, particularly for normal oceanic regions away from mid-oceanic ridges, hot spots, and subduction zones, where plate tectonics is expected to present its simplest form. Whereas a growing volume of seismic data on land has provided remarkable advances in large-scale pictures, seafloor observations have been shedding new light on essential details. By combing through these observational constraints, researchers are unveiling the nature of the enigmatic LAS. Future directions for large-scale seafloor observations are also discussed.
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Annual Reviews
Published: Aug 30, 2017
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