Ted Irving and the Arc of APW Paths
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Ted Irving’s last two published papers neatly encapsulate his seminal contributions to the delineation of ever-important apparent polar wander (APW) paths. His final (210th) paper [Creer & Irving, 2012 Earth Sciences History] describes in detail how Ken Creer and he when still graduate students at Cambridge started to generate and assemble paleomagnetic data for the first APW path, for then only the UK; the paper was published 60 years ago and happened to be Ted’s first [Creer, Irving & Runcorn, 1954 JGE]. Only 10 years later, there was already a lengthy reference list of paleomagnetic results available from most continents that had been compiled in pole lists he published in GJRAS from 1960 to 1965 and included in an appendix in his landmark book “Paleomagnetism” [Irving, 1964 Wiley] in support of wide ranging discussions of continental drift and related topics in chapters like ‘Paleolatitudes and paleomeridians.’ A subsequent innovation was calculating running means of poles indexed to a numerical geologic time scale [Irving, 1977 Nature], which with independent tectonic reconstructions as already for Gondwana allowed constructions of more detailed composite APW paths. His 1977 paper also coined Pangea B for an earlier albeit contentious configuration for the supercontinent that refuses to go away. Gliding over much work on APW tracks and hairpins in the Precambrian, we come to Ted’s penultimate (209th) paper [Kent & Irving, 2010 JGR] in which individual poles from short-lived large igneous provinces were grouped and most sedimentary poles, many rather venerable, excluded as likely to be biased by variable degrees of inclination error. The leaner composite APW path helped to resurrect the Baja BC scenario of Cordilleran terrane motions virtually stopped in the 1980s by APW path techniques that relied on a few key but alas often badly skewed poles. The new composite APW path also revealed several major features, such as a huge polar shift of 30° in 15 Myr in the Late Jurassic, which had been missed in seemingly more robust (certainly more populated) APW paths to date. This prompts the suggestion that a threshold criterion for pole selection might be whether a result was publishable by today’s standards, which could provide motivation for the generation of new data for better resolved APW paths as a legacy to Ted.