A definitive guide to the great mantle plume debate

November 13, 2007

Boulder, CO, USA - Geoscientists' heightened debate on the existence of mantle plumes is highlighted in a new volume published by the Geological Society of America. Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes includes both chapters advocating the plume hypothesis and chapters arguing for shallow-based alternatives as explanations for surface volcanic regions known as "hot spots."

"This is the first volume in which roughly equal numbers of plume-advocate and alternative-advocate chapters were actively sought," said volume editor Gillian Foulger, Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, Durham, UK. "We wanted to focus squarely on challenge and debate, rather than assumption of preferred theories."

Until 2003 discussion of mantle plumes consisted largely of describing observations consistent with the plume hypothesis on one hand, and highlighting weaknesses in the theory on the other hand, explained Foulger. In order to advance the debate in a positive way and stimulate further research, a Geological Society of America Penrose Conference that year focused on development of alternative explanations for observations apparently unexplained by the plume hypothesis. GSA subsequently published Plates, Plumes, and Paradigms in the fall of 2005. An American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference later that year reflected another upsurge in enthusiasm for debate and provided the impetus for GSA's latest publication.

Foulger and co-editor Donna Jurdy, Department of Geological Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA, established a particularly rigorous review process for papers submitted.

"We chose reviewers likely to advocate contrasting viewpoints in order to expose authors to the most challenging criticisms possible, and to encourage confrontation of difficulties," said Foulger. "We also posted chapters on the Web, allowing open, formal discussion of them for a period of three months."

The finished product includes a whopping 45 papers grouped in the following categories:
Individual copies may be purchased through the Geological Society of America online bookstore (http://rock.geosociety.org/Bookstore/default.asp?oID=0&catID=9&pID=SPE428) or by contacting GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org.

Book editors of earth science journals/publications may request a review copy by contacting Jeanette Hammann, jhammann@geosociety.org.

Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes
Gillian R. Foulger and Donna M. Jurdy (eds.)
Geological Society of America Special Paper 430
2007, 974 pages, US$180.00, GSA member price US$126.00
ISBN 978-0-8137-2430-0


Geological Society of America
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