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Authors: Riguzzi, F. 
Title: From the global scale to the Mediterranean plate kinematics
Issue Date: 2008
Keywords: plate kinematics
hotspot reference frame
Earth's rotation
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.07. Tectonophysics::04.07.02. Geodynamics 
Abstract: Plate motions with respect to the mantle represent the most direct evidence to understand the origin of plate tectonic processes. The research here described has the aim to improve the knowledge on the global scale plate kinematics in “absolute” reference frames, or better, relative to the mantle, incorporating both geological–geophysical and space geodesy data. Geophysical and geological signatures of subduction and rift zones independently show a global polarity of current plate motions, suggesting a west-ward displacement of the whole lithosphere relative to the underlying mantle. We analytically modeled this tectonic pattern in a suitable selected hotspot framework, taking into account variable depths of the hotspot source, obtaining new plate angular velocities and their uncertainties, by least squares inversion. Then, we focused our attention on the Italian area estimating the velocity field from continuous GPS observations both relative to Eurasia, and relative to the mantle, applying the global model previously estimated. However, the presence of the Apennine subduction, having more or less the same extent of the investigated area, makes locally less reliable our global model. Consequently, we applied a simple kinematic model to estimate the rates and spatial pattern of the subduction along the Apennines. The variable rates inferred after our analysis, better reconcile if the subduction process is conceived as a passive rather than active feature. Then, the analysis came back again to the global scale and to the basic argument if plates are passively riding along on the top of a mantle convection cell, or whether the plates themselves are active drivers. On the other hand, if plate motion occurs as an ordered undulated west-directed flow, the net-rotation of the lithosphere emerges as a passive process active at global scale, and then, it can be driven only by external forces. Thus, the last part of this research has been dedicated to find the experimental evidences connecting the tectonic processes to the Earth's rotation and the tidal drag.
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