Foundations

This document covers some plate tectonic foundations of pygplates.

Plate reconstruction hierarchy

Note

Next-generation plate-tectonic reconstructions using GPlates contains a good introduction to plate reconstruction hierarchies.

A plate-reconstruction hierarchy consists of a tree of total reconstruction poles at an instant in geological time.

Plate motions are described in terms of relative rotations between pairs of plates. Every plate in the model moves relative to some other plate where, within each of these plate pairs, one plate is considered the moving plate relative to the other fixed plate. That fixed plate, in turn, moves relative to another plate thus forming a tree-like structure known as the reconstruction tree. Each of these relative rotations is an edge in the tree.

The following diagram shows a subset of the hierarchy of relative rotations used in GPlates:

             000
              |
              |  finite rotation (001 rel. 000)
              |
             001
              |
              |  finite rotation (701 rel. 001)
              |
             701(AFR)
             /|\
            / | \  finite rotation (802 rel. 701)
           /  |  \
        201  702  802(ANT)
         /   / \    \
        /   /   \    \  finite rotation (801 rel. 802)
       /   /     \    \
    202  704     705  801(AUS)
    / \
   /   \
  /     \
290     291

...where 000 is the anchored plate (the top of the reconstruction tree). The edge 802 rel. 701 contains the rotation of 802 (the moving plate in the pair) relative to 701 (the fixed plate in the pair).

An equivalent rotation is the rotation of a plate relative to the anchored plate. So the equivalent rotation of plate 802 is the composition of relative rotations along the plate circuit edge path from anchored plate 000 to plate 802.

A relative rotation is the rotation of one plate relative to another plate (as opposed to the anchored plate). Note that, like equivalent rotations, the plate circuit edge path can consist of one or more edges. For example, the rotation of plate 801 relative to plate 291 follows an edge path that goes via plates 202, 201, 701 and 802. However it should be noted that if the edge between 001 and 701 did not exist then, even though a path would still exist between 291 and 801, the relative rotation (and equivalent rotations of 291 and 801 for that matter) would be an identity rotation". This is because the sub-tree below 001 would not get built into the reconstruction tree and hence all plates in the sub-tree would be missing. This can happen when the rotation sequence for a moving/fixed plate pair (eg, 701/101) does not span a large enough time period. You can work around this situation by setting the anchor plate to the relative plate (eg, 291 in the above example).

A total rotation is a rotation at a time in the past relative to present day (0Ma). In other words from present day to a past time.

A stage rotation is a rotation at a time in the past relative to another time in the past.

Working with finite rotations

A finite rotation represents the motion of a plate (relative to another plate) on the surface of the globe over a period of geological time.

In pygplates, finite rotations are represented by pygplates.FiniteRotation.

In the following sections we will first cover some rotation maths and then derive the four fundamental finite rotation categories:

In pygplates, these can be obtained from a pygplates.RotationModel.

Composing finite rotations

In the following examples a composed rotation \(R2 \times R1\) means the rotation \(R1\) is the first rotation to be applied followed by the rotation \(R2\) such that a geometry is rotated in the following way:

\[\begin{split}\text{geometry_final} &= R2 \times(R1 \times \text{geometry_initial}) \\ &= R2 \times R1 \times \text{geometry_initial}\end{split}\]

...which is the equivalent of...

\[\begin{split}\text{geometry_intermediate} &= R1 \times \text{geometry_initial} \\ \text{geometry_final} &= R2 \times \text{geometry_intermediate} \\ &= R2 \times (R1 \times \text{geometry_initial}) \\ &= R2 \times R1 \times \text{geometry_initial}\end{split}\]

Note

Rotations are not commutative (\(R2 \times R1 \neq R1 \times R2\))

The composed rotation \(R2 \times R1\) can be written in pygplates as either:

R2 * R1

...or...

pygplates.FiniteRotation.compose(R2, R1)

For example, the above geometry rotation can be written as either:

geometry_final = R2 * R1 * geometry_initial

...or...

geometry_final = pygplates.FiniteRotation.compose(R2, R1) * geometry_initial

Plate circuit paths

The rotation from present day (0Ma) to the geological time \(t_{2}\) (via time \(t_{1}\)) is given by:

\[R(0 \rightarrow t_{2}) = R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1})\]

...or by post-multiplying both sides by \(R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0)\), and then swapping sides, this becomes...

\[\begin{split}R(0 \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0) &= R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0) \\ R(0 \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0) &= R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}) \\ R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}) &= R(0 \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0)\end{split}\]

The plate circuit path rotation from anchor plate \(P_{A}\) to moving plate \(P_{M}\) (via fixed plate \(P_{F}\)) is given by:

\[R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) = R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}) \times R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M})\]

...or by pre-multiplying both sides by \(R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A})\) this becomes...

\[\begin{split}R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) &= R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}) \times R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) &= R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) &= R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})\end{split}\]

Note that the rotations for relative times and for relative plates have the opposite order of each other !

In other words:

  • For times \(0 \rightarrow t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}\) you apply the \(0 \rightarrow t_{1}\) rotation first followed by the \(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}\) rotation:

    \[R(0 \rightarrow t_{2}) = R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1})\]
  • For plate circuit \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\) you apply the \(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\) rotation first followed by the \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}\) rotation:

    \[R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) = R(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}) \times R(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M})\]

    Note

    This is not \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}\) followed by \(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\) as you might expect (looking at the time example).

This is probably best explained by the difference between thinking in terms of the grand fixed coordinate system and local coordinate system (see http://glprogramming.com/red/chapter03.html#name2). Essentially, in the plate circuit \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\), the \(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\) rotation can be thought of as a rotation within the local coordinate system of \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F}\). In other words \(P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}\) is not a rotation that occurs relative to the global spin axis but a rotation relative to the local coordinate system of plate \(P_{F}\) after it has been rotated relative to the anchor plate \(P_{A}\).

For the times \(0 \rightarrow t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2}\) this local/relative coordinate system concept does not apply.

Note that a rotation must be relative to present day (0Ma) before it can be separated into a (plate circuit) chain of moving/fixed plate pairs. Hence \(R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}) \neq R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2},P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C})\) demonstrates this mistake.

The following shows the correct way to separate \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}\) into the (plate circuit) chain of moving/fixed plate pairs \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}\) and \(P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}\)...

\[\begin{split}R(t_{1} \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}) \times R(t_{1} \rightarrow 0,P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C})^{-1} \\ & \text{// Now that all times are relative to 0Ma we can split } P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C} \text{ into } P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C} \text{ ...} \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}) \times [R(0 \rightarrow t_{1},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1},P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C})]^{-1} \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{2},P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1},P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{1},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B})^{-1}\end{split}\]

...where \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}\) means \(P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}\) is the rotation of \(P_{C}\) relative to \(P_{B}\) and \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}\) is the rotation of \(P_{B}\) relative to \(P_{A}\). The need for rotation \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{C}\) to be relative to present day (0Ma) before it can be split into \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}\) and \(P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}\) is because \(P_{A} \rightarrow P_{B}\) and \(P_{B} \rightarrow P_{C}\) are defined (in the rotation file) as total reconstruction poles which are always relative to present day.

Note

The inverse of rotation \(R\) is denoted \(R^{-1}\).
Such that \(R \times R^{-1} = R^{-1} \times R = I\) where \(I\) is the identify rotation.

Equivalent total rotation

The equivalent total rotation of moving plate \(P_{M}\) relative to anchor plate \(P_{A}\), and from present day time \(0\) to time \(t_{to}\) is:

\[R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})\]

In pygplates, the equivalent total rotation can be obtained pygplates.RotationModel.get_rotation() as:

rotation_model = pygplates.RotationModel(...)
...
equivalent_total_rotation = rotation_model.get_rotation(to_time, moving_plate)

Relative total rotation

The relative total rotation of moving plate \(P_{M}\) relative to fixed plate \(P_{F}\), and from present day time \(0\) to time \(t_{to}\) is:

\[\begin{split}R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})\end{split}\]

...where \(P_{A}\) is the anchor plate.

In pygplates, the relative total rotation can be obtained from pygplates.RotationModel.get_rotation() as:

rotation_model = pygplates.RotationModel(...)
...
relative_total_rotation = rotation_model.get_rotation(to_time, moving_plate, fixed_plate_id=fixed_plate)

Equivalent stage rotation

The equivalent stage rotation of moving plate \(P_{M}\) relative to anchor plate \(P_{A}\), and from time \(t_{from}\) to time \(t_{to}\) is:

\[\begin{split}R(t_{from} \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times R(t_{from} \rightarrow 0,P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})^{-1}\end{split}\]

In pygplates, the equivalent stage rotation can be obtained pygplates.RotationModel.get_rotation() as:

rotation_model = pygplates.RotationModel(...)
...
equivalent_stage_rotation = rotation_model.get_rotation(to_time, moving_plate, from_time)

Relative stage rotation

The relative stage rotation of moving plate \(P_{M}\) relative to fixed plate \(P_{F}\), and from time \(t_{from}\) to time \(t_{to}\) is:

\[\begin{split}R(t_{from} \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times R(t_{from} \rightarrow 0,P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{M})^{-1} \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times [R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{F} \rightarrow P_{A}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})]^{-1} \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times [R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})]^{-1} \\ & = R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{to},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M}) \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{M})^{-1} \times R(0 \rightarrow t_{from},P_{A} \rightarrow P_{F})\end{split}\]

...where \(P_{A}\) is the anchor plate.

In pygplates, the relative stage rotation can be obtained pygplates.RotationModel.get_rotation() as:

rotation_model = pygplates.RotationModel(...)
...
relative_stage_rotation = rotation_model.get_rotation(to_time, moving_plate, from_time, fixed_plate)