While global computational models are rapidly advancing in terms of their capabilities, there is an increasing need for assimilating observations into these models and/or ground-truthing model outputs. The open-source and platform independent GPlates software fills this gap. It was originally conceived as a tool to interactively visualize and manipulate classical rigid plate reconstructions and represent them as time-dependent topological networks of editable plate boundaries. The user can export time-dependent plate velocity meshes that can be used either to define initial surface boundary conditions for geodynamic models or alternatively impose plate motions throughout a geodynamic model run. However, tectonic plates are not rigid, and neglecting plate deformation, especially that of the edges of overriding plates, can result in significant misplacing of plate boundaries through time. A new, substantially re-engineered version of GPlates is now being developed that allows an embedding of deforming plates into topological plate boundary networks. We use geophysical and geological data to define the limit between rigid and deforming areas, and the deformation history of non-rigid blocks. The velocity field predicted by these reconstructions can then be used as a time-dependent surface boundary condition in regional or global 3-D geodynamic models, or alternatively as an initial boundary condition for a particular plate configuration at a given time. For time-dependent models with imposed plate motions (e.g. using CitcomS) we incorporate the continental lithosphere by embedding compositionally distinct crust and continental lithosphere within the thermal lithosphere. We define three isostatic columns of different thickness and buoyancy based on the tectonothermal age of the continents: Archean, Proterozoic and Phanerozoic. In the fourth isostatic column, the oceans, the thickness of the thermal lithosphere is assimilated using a half-space cooling model. We also define the thickness of the thermal lithosphere for different continental types, with the exception of the deforming areas that are fully dynamic. Finally, we introduce a "slab assimilation" method in which the thermal structure of the slab, derived analytically, is progressively assimilated into the upper mantle through time. This method not only improves the continuity of slabs in forward models with imposed plate motions, but it also allows us to model flat slab segments that are particularly relevant for understanding dynamic surface topography. When it comes to post-processing and visualisation, GPlates allows the user to import time-dependent model output image stacks to visualise mantle properties (e.g. temperature) at a given depth through time, with plate boundaries and other data attached to plates overlain. This approach provides an avenue to simultaneously investigate the contributions of lithospheric deformation and mantle flow to surface topography. Currently GPlates is being used in conjunction with the codes CitcomS, Terra, BEMEarth and the adaptive mesh refinement code Rhea. A GPlates python plugin infrastructure makes it easy to extend interoperability with other geodynamic modelling codes.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2011
- 1936 INFORMATICS / Interoperability;
- 1976 INFORMATICS / Software tools and services;
- 1992 INFORMATICS / Virtual globes