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Composition of the Continental Crust

Composition of the Continental Crust,10.1016/B0-08-043751-6/03016-4,R. L. Rudnick,S. Gao

Composition of the Continental Crust   (Citations: 244)
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The Earth is an unusual planet in our solar system in having a bimodal topography that reflects the two distinct types of crust found on our planet. The low-lying oceanic crust is thin (˜7 km on average), composed of relatively dense rock types such as basalt and is young (<=200 Ma old) (see Chapter 3.13). In contrast, the high-standing continental crust is thick (˜40 km on average), is composed of highly diverse lithologies (virtually every rock type known on Earth) that yield an average intermediate or "andesitic" bulk composition (Taylor and McLennan (1985) and references therein), and contains the oldest rocks and minerals yet observed on Earth (currently the 4.0 Ga Acasta gneisses (Bowring and Williams, 1999) and 4.4 Ga detrital zircons from the Yilgarn Block, Western Australia (Wilde et al., 2001)), respectively. Thus, the continents preserve a rich geological history of our planet's evolution and understanding their origin is critical for understanding the origin and differentiation of the Earth.The origin of the continents has received wide attention within the geological community, with hundreds of papers and several books devoted to the topic (the reader is referred to the following general references for further reading: Taylor and McLennan (1985), Windley (1995), and Condie (1997). Knowledge of the age and composition of the continental crust is essential for understanding its origin. Patchett and Samson (Chapter 3.10) review the present-day age distribution of the continental crust and Kemp and Hawkesworth (Chapter 3.11) review secular evolution of crust composition. Moreover, to understand fully the origin and evolution of continents requires an understanding of not only the crust, but also the mantle lithosphere that formed more-or-less contemporaneously with the crust and translates with it as the continents move across the Earth's surface. The latter topic is reviewed in Chapter 2.05.This chapter reviews the present-day composition of the continental crust, the methods employed to derive these estimates, and the implications of the continental crust composition for the formation of the continents, Earth differentiation, and its geochemical inventories.
Published in 2003.
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