The interior structures of planets are attracting more and more detailed attention; these studies could be of great value in improving our understanding of the early evolution of Earth. Seismological investigations of planet interiors rely primarily on seismic waves excited by seismic events. Since tectonic activities are much weaker on other planets, e.g. Mars, the magnitudes of their seismic events are much smaller than those on Earth. It is therefore a challenge to detect seismic events on planets using such conventional techniques as short-time average/long-time average (STA/LTA) triggers. In pursuit of an effective and robust scheme to detect small-magnitude events on Mars in the near future, we have taken Apollo lunar seismic observations as an example of weak-activity data and developed an event-detection scheme. The scheme reported here is actually a two-step processing approach: the first step involves a despike filter to remove large-amplitude impulses arising from large temperature variations; the second step employs a matched filter to unmask the seismic signals from a weak event hidden in the ambient and scattering noise. The proposed scheme has been used successfully to detect a moonquake that was not in the known moonquake catalogue, demonstrating that the two-step strategy is a feasible method for detecting seismic events on planets. Our scheme will provide a powerful tool for seismic data analysis of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, and China’s future lunar missions.
Widespread magmatism, metamorphic core complexes (MCCs), and significant lithospheric thinning occurred during the Mesozoic in the North China Craton (NCC). It has been suggested that the coeval exhumation of MCCs with uniform northwest-southeast shear senses and magmatism probably resulted from a decratonization event during the retreat of the paleo-Pacific Plate. Here we used two-dimensional finite element thermomechanical numerical models to investigate critical parameters controlling the formation of MCCs under far-field extensional stress. We observed three end-member deformation modes: the MCC mode, the symmetric-dome mode, and the pure-shear mode. The MCC mode requires a Moho temperature of ≥700 °C and an extensional strain rate of ≥5 × 10−16 s−1, implying that the lithosphere had already thinned when the MCC was formed in the Mesozoic. Considering that the widespread MCCs have the same northwest-southeast extension direction in the NCC, we suggest that the MCCs are surface expressions of both large-scale extension and craton destruction and that rollback of the paleo-Pacific slab might be the common driving force.
The theory of plate tectonics came together in the 1960s, achieving wide acceptance after 1968. Since then it has been the most successful framework for investigations of Earth’s evolution. Subduction of the oceanic lithosphere, as the engine that drives plate tectonics, has played a key role in the theory. However, one of the biggest unanswered questions in Earth science is how the first subduction was initiated, and hence how plate tectonics began. The main challenge is how the strong lithosphere could break and bend if plate tectonics-related weakness and slab-pull force were both absent. In this work we review state-of-the-art subduction initiation (SI) models with a focus on their prerequisites and related driving mechanisms. We note that the plume-lithosphere-interaction and mantle-convection models do not rely on the operation of existing plate tectonics and thus may be capable of explaining the first SI. Re-investigation of plate-driving mechanisms reveals that mantle drag may be the missing driving force for surface plates, capable of triggering initiation of the first subduction. We propose a composite driving mechanism, suggesting that plate tectonics may be driven by both subducting slabs and convection currents in the mantle. We also discuss and try to answer the following question: Why has plate tectonics been observed only on Earth?