Epelrogeny and plate tectonics



This review is generated by an intensification of interest in a classical subject of geology, vertical motions of the crust and their causes. The subject was examined qualitatively for more than a century within a paradigm of a mainly static earth that merely moved up and down. The new interest derives from the fact that some aspects of vertical motion can now be explained semi-quantitatively and also from the realization that, in the paradigm of a dynamic earth, some vertical motions are related to horizontal drifting.

The fact that large regions of the earth are warped vertically has been known since the beginnings of modern geology. Lyell [1835] cites Playfair and Von Buch among others who recognized the uplift of Scandinavia. Likewise, Darwin [1842] observed that the distribution of atolls and elevated islands establishes regional warping of ocean basins. The term ‘epeirogeny’ was coined by Gilbert [1890] to describe this broad, gentle warping, which is such a common feature of the history of the whole earth.