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Adam Maloof
Assistant Professor of Geosciences (Geology)

Department of Geosciences
213 Guyot Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Phone: (609) 258-2844
E-Mail: maloof@princeton.edu

True Polar Wander and the Origin of the 800 Ma Bitter Springs Carbon Isotope Stage

True Polar wander (defined as the motion of the entire solid earth with respect to the spin axis in response to changes in mass distribution within the planet in an attempt to maintain rotational equilibrium) has long been considered a process that should compliment plate tectonics. However, large amounts of TPW have not been observed confidently in the geologic record. I have been working on two different techniques to help recognize the magnitude and geometry of true polar wander events in the past.
First, field-based stratigraphic studies in Svalbard, Greenland, Victoria Island, and the Mackenzie Mountains (Canada) in collaboration with Galen Halverson, Matthew Hurtgen, David Jones (Harvard), and Robert Rainbird have revealed a pair of greater than 60 degree true polar wander events coupled to d13C and d34S excursions at about 800 Ma. The presence of TPW provides powerful additional constraints on paleogeography, and this realization has led to a new hypothesis for some of the observed d13C variablity during the Precambrian.

Our group is currently funded by the National Science Foundation (EAR-0514657) to test the TPW hypopthesis for the Bitter Springs Stage in Central Australia. The Summer 2006 field season has been a tremendous success, coupling detailed logging and sampling of mountain outcrops and petroleum cores to basic reconnaissance field mapping. If you are an undergraduate student interested in taking part in this project during the 2006-2007 academic year, please contact me.
Second, in collaboration with David Evans and Timothy Raub at Yale University, a reevaluation of the global paleomagnetic database has revealed great circle (rather than the small circles expected for motions related to seafloor spreading and plate tectonics) distributions of poles during the interval 610-510 Ma. Could a series of inertial interchange true polar wander events have caused landscape and ocean-geochemical disequilibrium just prior to and during the Cambrian explosion?

Updated 08/08/06