Earth as an Evolving Planetary System book cover

Earth as an Evolving Planetary System

Earth as an Evolving Planetary System, Second Edition, examines the various subsystems that play a role in the evolution of the Earth. These subsystems include such components as the crust, mantle, core, atmosphere, oceans, and life. The book contains 10 chapters that discuss the structure of the Earth and plate tectonics; the origin and evolution of the crust; the processes that leave tectonic imprints in rocks and modern processes responsible for these imprints; and the structure of the mantle and the core. The book also covers the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere; crustal and mantle evolution; the supercontinent cycle; great events in Earth history; and the Earth in comparison to other planets. This book is meant for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in Earth Sciences, with a basic knowledge of geology, biology, chemistry, and physics. It also may serve as a reference tool for specialists in the geologic sciences who want to keep abreast of scientific advances in this field.

Structural geologists and professionals in related disciplines who want to look at the Earth in a broader perspective; advanced undergraduate and graduate students in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Paperback, 578 Pages

Published: August 2011

Imprint: Academic Press

ISBN: 978-0-12-385227-4


  • "I have found Kent Condie’s book to be a masterpiece, very interesting and truly enjoyable to read. Upon completion of this book, the reader will likely realize how exciting and important the interdisciplinary work is that has lead scientists to understand most of the unknown features of our unique planet."--Pure and Applied Geophysics, August 2, 2013
    "…a masterpiece, very interesting and truly enjoyable to read. Upon completion of this book, the reader will likely realize how exciting and important is the interdisciplinary work that has lead scientists to understand most of the unknown features of our unique planet."--Pure and Applied Geophysics, April 2013

    Praise for the first edition:
    "What we can find in this book is a snapshot of current knowledge regarding the Earth's components and how these consituent parts challenge Earth scientists to integrate their sub-disciplines into a holistic view of our home. The book is an excellent textbook for either an upper class undergraduate course or a graduate course in Earth history."--Eos (Bulletin of the American Geophysical Union), 2005
    "Author Kent Condie synthesizes data from the fields of oceanography, geophysics, planetology, and geochemistry to examine the key topics and questions relating to the evolution of Earth's crust and mantle. This volume provides a substantial update to Condie's established text,Plate Tectonics and Crustal Evolution, Fourth Edition. It emphasizes the interactive nature of various components of the Earth system on timescales of tens to hundreds of millions of years, and how these interactions have affected the history of the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere."--Linda Chappell, Information and Research Services, Lunar and Planetary Institute
    "Condie (earth and environmental science, New Mexico Tech) synthesizes data and research from a wide variety of fields<-->geophysics, planetology, oceanography, paleoclimatology, geology<-->to present a systematic view of the Earth as a singular planetary system of animate and inanimate processes. This book started decades ago as an overview of plate-tectonics, and in the last two editions has been published under a new name as plate-tectonics became no longer the focus. Written for advanced undergraduate or graduate students in the Earth sciences, the majority of the text considers the geology and geochemistry of the inner Earth clear up to the mantle. The last few chapters consider Earth history over all, the origins and impact of life, and comparative planetary evolution throughout the solar-system. This second edition includes not only new seismic tomography data and high resolution U/Pb zircon dating, but also new chapters on the super-continent cycle and great events in Earth history. Academic Press is an imprint of Elsevier."--Reference and Research Book News, October 2012


  • Preface

    1. Earth Systems

    Earth as a Planetary System

    Structure of Earth

    Plate Tectonics

    Is the Earth Unique?

    Interacting Earth Systems

    Further Reading

    2. The Crust


    Seismic Crustal Structure

    The Moho

    Crustal Layers

    Complexities in the Lower Continental Crust

    Crustal Types

    Oceanic Crust

    Transitional Crust

    Continental Crust

    Continent Size

    Heat Flow

    Heat Flow Distribution

    Heat Production and Heat Flow in the Continents

    Age Dependence of Heat Flow

    Exhumation and Cratonization

    Unraveling Pressure-Temperature-Time Histories

    Some Typical P-T-t Paths


    Processes in the Continental Crust


    The Role of Fluids and Crustal Melts

    Crustal Composition


    Seismic Wave Velocities

    Seismic Reflections in the Lower Continental Crust

    Sampling of Precambrian Shields

    Use of Fine-Grained Detrital Sediments

    Exhumed Crustal Blocks

    Crustal Xenoliths

    An Estimate of Crustal Composition

    Crustal Provinces and Terranes

    Crustal Province and Terrane Boundaries

    The United Plates of America

    Further Reading

    3. Tectonic Settings


    Ocean Ridges

    Ocean Ridge Basalts


    Tectonic Settings Related to Mantle Plumes

    Large Igneous Provinces

    Oceanic Plateaus and Aseismic Ridges

    Rifted Continental Margins

    Continental Flood Basalts

    Hotspot Volcanic Islands

    Giant Mafic Dyke Swarms

    Continental Rifts

    General Features

    Rock Assemblages

    Rift Development and Evolution

    Cratons and Passive Margins

    Arc Systems

    Subduction-Related Rock Assemblages

    Arc Processes

    High-Pressure Metamorphism

    Igneous Rocks

    Compositional Variation of Arc Magmas


    Three Types of Orogens

    Orogenic Rock Assemblages

    Tectonic Elements of Collisional Orogens


    Foreland and Hinterland Basins

    The Himalayas

    Uncertain Tectonic Settings

    Anorogenic Granites

    Archean Greenstones

    Mineral and Energy Deposits

    Mineral Deposits

    Energy Deposits

    Plate Tectonics with Time

    Further Reading

    4. The Mantle


    Seismic Structure of the Mantle

    Upper Mantle

    Lower Mantle

    Mantle Upwellings and Geoid Anomalies

    Temperature Distribution in the Mantle

    The Lithosphere

    Oceanic Lithosphere

    Continental Lithosphere

    The Low-Velocity Zone

    The Transition Zone

    The 410-km Discontinuity

    The 520-km Discontinuity

    The 660-km Discontinuity

    The Lower Mantle

    General Features

    Descending Slabs

    The D” Layer

    Spin Transitions

    Water in the Mantle

    Plate Driving Forces

    Mantle Plumes


    Plume Characteristics

    Tracking Plume Tails

    Plume Sources

    Mantle Geochemical Components

    Identifying Mantle Components

    Mixing Regimes in the Mantle


    Convection in the Mantle

    The Nature of Convection

    Passive Ocean Ridges

    Layered Convection Model

    Toward a Convection Model for Earth

    Further Reading

    5. The Core


    Core Temperature

    The Inner Core

    Anisotropy of the Inner Core

    Inner Core Rotation

    Composition of the Core

    Age of the Core

    Generation of Earth’s Magnetic Field

    The Geodynamo

    Fluid Motions in the Outer Core

    Fueling the Geodynamo

    How the Geodynamo Works

    What Causes Magnetic Reversals?

    Origin of the Core

    Segregation of Iron in the Mantle

    Siderophile Element Distribution in the Mantle

    Growth and Evolution of the Core

    What the Future Holds

    Further Reading

    6. Earth’s Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere

    The Modern Atmosphere

    The Primitive Atmosphere

    The Post-Collision Atmosphere

    Composition of the Early Atmosphere

    Growth Rate of the Atmosphere

    The Faint Young Sun Paradox

    The Precambrian Atmosphere

    The Carbon Cycle

    The Carbon Isotope Record

    General Features

    The 2200-Ma Carbon Isotope Excursion

    The Sulfur Isotope Record

    Phanerozoic Atmospheric History

    The Hydrosphere

    Sea Level

    The Early Oceans

    Changes in the Composition of Seawater with Time

    The Temperature of Seawater

    Ocean Volume through Time

    Euxinia in the Proterozoic Oceans


    Paleoclimatic Indicators

    Long-Term Paleoclimatic Driving Forces


    Precambrian Climatic Regimes

    Phanerozoic Climatic Regimes

    The Biosphere

    Appearance of Eukaryotes

    Origin of Metazoans


    Neoproterozoic Multicellular Organisms

    The Cambrian Explosion

    Evolution of Phanerozoic Life-Forms

    Biological Benchmarks

    Mass Extinctions

    Episodic Distributions

    Glaciation and Mass Extinction

    Impact-Related Extinctions

    The Triassic Extinction

    Impact and a 580-Ma Extinction


    Further Reading

    7. Crustal and Mantle Evolution


    The Hadean

    Extinct Radioactivity

    Hadean Zircons

    Origin of the First Crust

    Composition of the Primitive Crust

    Earth’s Oldest Rocks

    Crustal Origin

    How Continents Grow

    General Features

    Growth by Mafic Underplating

    Oceanic Plateaus and Continental Growth

    Growth by Plate Collisions

    Continental Growth Rates

    The Role of Recycling

    Juvenile Crust


    Continental Growth in the Last 200 Ma

    Toward a Continental Growth Model

    The 2.4- to 2.2-Ga Crustal Age Gap

    Secular Changes in the Continental Crust

    Major Elements

    Rare Earth and Related Elements

    Nickel, Cobalt, and Chromium

    Oceanic Plateaus as Starters for Archean Continents

    Secular Changes in the Mantle

    Tracking Mantle Geochemical Components into the Archean

    Mantle Lithosphere Evolution

    Earth’s Thermal History

    Magma Oceans

    How Hot Was the Archean Mantle?

    Thermal Models

    Further Reading

    8. The Supercontinent Cycle


    Supercontinent Reconstruction

    Continental Collisions and the Assembly of Supercontinents

    The First Supercontinent

    Later Supercontinents

    Nuna (Columbia)


    Gondwana and Pangea

    The Supercontinent Cycle

    Episodic Ages

    Patterns of Cyclicity

    Relationship to Earth History

    Mantle Superplume Events

    Superplume Events

    Mantle Plumes and Supercontinent Breakup

    Episodic LIP Events

    Slab Avalanches

    Supercontinents, Superplumes, and the Carbon Cycle

    Supercontinent Formation

    Supercontinent Breakup

    Mantle Superplume Events


    Further Reading

    9. Great Events in Earth History


    Event 1: Origin of the Moon

    How Rare Is the Earth-Moon System?

    Constraints on Lunar Origin

    Early Thermal History of the Moon

    Event 2: Origin of Life

    The Role of Impacts

    The RNA World

    Hydrothermal Vents

    The First Life

    Evidence of Early Life

    The Origin of Photosynthesis

    The Tree of Life

    The First Fossils

    Possibility of Extraterrestrial Life

    Event 3: The Onset of Plate Tectonics

    Plate Tectonic Indicators

    Global Changes at the End of the Archean

    How Did Plate Tectonics Begin: Thermal Constraints

    When Did Plate Tectonics Begin?: The Ongoing Saga


    Event 4: The Great Oxidation Event

    Oxygen Controls in the Atmosphere

    Geologic Indicators of Ancient Atmospheric Oxygen Levels

    Mass-Independent Sulfur Isotope Fractionation

    The Growth of Atmospheric Oxygen

    Event 5: The Snowball Earth

    The Observational Database

    The Snowball Model

    Event 6: Mass Extinction at the End of the Permian

    General Features

    Evidence for Impact

    LIP Volcanism

    Shallow-Water Anoxia

    Catastrophic Methane Release


    Event 7: The Cretaceous Superplume Event

    Geologic Evidence

    The Carbon Isotope and Trace Metal Record

    Seeking a Cause

    A Possible Superchron-Superplume Connection

    Event 8: Mass Extinction at the end of the Cretaceous

    General Features

    Seeking a Cause

    Chicxulub and the K/T Impact Site

    Possibility of Multiple K/T Impacts


    Further Reading

    10. Comparative Planetary Evolution


    Condensation and Accretion of the Planets

    The Solar Nebula

    Emergence of Planets

    Homogeneous Accretion

    Chemical Composition of the Earth and the Moon

    Accretion of Earth

    The First 700 Million Years

    Members of the Solar System

    The Planets

    Satellites and Planetary Rings

    Comets and Other Icy Bodies



    Impact Chronology of the Inner Solar System

    Volcanism in the Solar System

    Planetary Crusts

    Plate Tectonics

    Mineral Evolution

    Evolution of the Atmospheres of Earth, Venus, and Mars

    The Continuously Habitable Zone

    Comparative Planetary Evolution

    Extrasolar Planets

    Further Reading




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