Subduction drives plate tectonics and builds continental crust, and as such is one of the most important processes for shaping the present-day Earth. Here we review both theory and observations for the viability and style of Archean subduction. High Archean mantle temperature gave low mantle viscosity and affected plate strength and plate buoyancy. This resulted in slower or intermittent subduction, either of which resulted in Earth cooling profiles that fit available data. Some geological observations are interpreted as subduction related, including an “arc” signature in various igneous rocks (suggesting burial of surface material to depths of 50–100 km), structural thrust belts and dipping seismic reflectors, and high-pressure–low-temperature and low-pressure–high-temperature paired metamorphic belts. Combined geodynamical and geochemical evidence suggests that subduction operated in the Archean, although not, as often assumed, as shallow flat subduction. Instead, subduction was more episodic in nature, with more intermittent plate motion than in the Phanerozoic.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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