Slow start of plate tectonics despite a hot early Earth

Writing in PNAS, scientists from Cologne university present important new constraints showing that plate tectonics started relatively slow, although the early Earth's interior was much hotter than today.

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Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids (i.e. liquids, gases) and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids.

Convection is one of the major modes of heat transfer and mass transfer. Convective heat and mass transfer take place through both diffusion – the random Brownian motion of individual particles in the fluid – and by advection, in which matter or heat is transported by the larger-scale motion of currents in the fluid. In the context of heat and mass transfer, the term "convection" is used to refer to the sum of advective and diffusive transfer. Note that in common use the term convection may refer loosely to heat transfer by convection, as opposed to mass transfer by convection, or the convection process in general. Sometimes "convection" is even used to refer specifically to "free heat convection" (natural heat convection), as opposed to forced heat convection. However, in mechanics the correct use of the word is the general sense, and different types of convection should be properly qualified for clarity.

Convection can be qualified in terms of being natural, forced, gravitational, granular, or thermomagnetic. It may also be said to be due to combustion, capillary action, or Marangoni and Weissenberg effects. Due to its role in heat transfer, natural convection plays a role in the stucture of Earth's atmosphere, its oceans, and its mantle. Discrete convective cells in the atmosphere can be seen as clouds, with stronger convection resulting in thunderstorms. Natural convection also plays a role in stellar physics.

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