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Mobile Plates and Mantle Convection:
Theory, Models, and Outright Speculation
One of the most visible manifestations of mantle convection is the motion of plates.
Boundary layer theory and scaling analysis has shown that convection can
produce surface motions that agree with observed plate motion; and convection calculations
have used a variety of methods to generate piecewise-linear surface motions, calling
these mobile plates. We have found a novel regime of coupled plate-mantle motion
where the plates 'reorganize' on a very short time scale (i.e., several million years).
The general assumption has been that because plate reorganizations happen on a short
time scale, plate reorganizations must be due to the interaction between the plates themselves.
I will show that this mode of coupled plate mantle behavior can be reproduced with three
independent methods of generating plates. I will go on to discuss additional observations
that might be useful constraints on plate models in an attempt to move toward more quantitative
analysis of plate-mantle calculations.