Present true polar wander in the frame of the Geotectonic Reference System


The Mesozoic-Cenozoic evolution of the Earth’s lithosphere reveals a fundamental hemispherical symmetry inherent in global tectonics. The symmetry is documented by the concurrent regular growth of the Pacific and African plates over the past 180 million years, and by the antipodal position of the two plates. The plates are centered on the equator, where center P of the Pacific plate is located at 170° W/0° N, and center A of the African plate at 10° E/0° N. P and A define a system of spherical coordinates, the Geotectonic Reference System GRS, which shows a distinct relation to Cenozoic global tectonics. P and A mark the poles of the geotectonic axis PA.

The degree-two pattern of the residual geoid displays two major highs, the Pacific high and the African high. Poles P and A are located in the centers of the respective geoid highs. The stable configuration of excess masses mP and mA which are responsible for the two geoid highs results in the long-standing stability of location of the geotectonic axis PA. The Earth’s rotation axis is oriented perpendicularly to the PA axis. Owing to the extraordinary stability of the geotectonic axis, any change of orientation of the rotation axis, e.g. induced by post-glacial rebound, occurs in such a way that the axis remains in the equatorial plane of the geotectonic system, i.e. in the 80° W/100° E meridional plane. Observed present polar wander is directed towards 80° W (79.2 ± 0.2° W). This indicates that the present true polar wander is directed exactly along the GRS-equator, identical with the 80° W/100° E great circle of the Earth. It is concluded that the phenomenon of polar wander is basically related to the symmetry of the geotectonic system defined by the Pacific pole P, at 170° W/0° N, and the African pole A, at 10° E/0° N.

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Correspondence to Nazario Pavoni.

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Manuscript received November 6, 2007 Revision accepted May 8, 2008

Editorial Handling: Ann Hirt-Tassilo, Stefan Bucher

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Pavoni, N. Present true polar wander in the frame of the Geotectonic Reference System. Swiss J. Geosci. 101, 629–636 (2008).

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  • Geotectonic Reference System
  • polar wander
  • geodynamics
  • geotectonic bipolarity