The inception of plate tectonics on Earth and its subsequent evolution are discussed on the basis of theoretical considerations and observational constraints. The likelihood of plate tectonics in the past depends on what mechanism is responsible for the relatively constant surface heat flux that is indicated by the likely thermal history of Earth. The continuous operation of plate tectonics throughout Earth's history is possible if, for example, the strength of convective stress in the mantle is affected by the gradual subduction of surface water. Various geological indicators for the emergence of plate tectonics are evaluated from a geodynamical perspective, and they invariably involve certain implicit assumptions about mantle dynamics, which are either demonstrably wrong or yet to be explored. The history of plate tectonics is suggested to be intrinsically connected to the secular evolution of the atmosphere, through sea-level changes caused by ocean-mantle interaction.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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