The Opening and Closing of An Ocean Basin
stable continental craton. A hot spot (not present in the drawings) rises up under the craton, heating it, causing it to swell upward, stretch and thin like taffy, crack, and finally split into two pieces. This process not only splits a continent in two it also creates a new divergent plate boundary.
separated into two continents, east and west, and a new ocean basin (the ophiolite suite) is generated between them. The ocean basin in this stage is comparable to the Red Sea today. As the ocean basin widens the stretched and thinned edges where the two continents used to be joined cool, become denser, and sink below sea level. Wedges of divergent continental margins sediments accumulate on both new continental edges.
Cycle begins when a subduction zone (new convergent plate boundary) forms. The subduction zone may form anywhere in the ocean basin, and may face in any direction. In this model we take the simplest situation; a subduction zone developing under the edge of one continent. Once the subduction zone is active the ocean basin is doomed; it will all eventually subduct and disappear. These are remnant ocean basins.
Stage G – once the collision has occurred the only thing left for the mountain to do is erode down to sea level – a peneplain. The stage G drawing is a distortion, however. With the collision the continental thickness doubles, and since continental rock is light weight, both will rise as the mountain erodes, much like a boat rises when cargo is taken off of it. Thus, in reality, most of the hinterland continent will be eroded away, and the foreland continent will eventually get back to the earth’s surface again.