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Bayesian Paleomagnetic Euler Pole Inversion for Paleogeographic Reconstruction and Analysis


Apparent polar wander paths (APWPs) synthesized from paleomagnetic poles provide the most direct data for reconstructing past paleogeography and plate motions for times earlier than ca. 200 Ma. In this contribution, we describe a new method for APWP synthesis that extends the paleomagnetic Euler pole analysis of Gordon et al. (1984, by placing it within the framework of a Bayesian inverse problem. This approach incorporates uncertainties in pole positions and age that are often ignored in standard treatments. The paleomagnetic Euler poles resulting from the inversions provide estimates for full-vector plate motion (both latitude and longitude) and associated uncertainty. The method allows for inverting for one or more Euler poles with the timing of changepoints being solved as part of the inversion. In addition, the method allows the incorporation of true polar wander rotations, thus providing an avenue for probabilistic partitioning of plate tectonic motion and true polar wander based on paleomagnetic poles. We show example inversions on synthetic data to demonstrate the method's capabilities. We illustrate application of the method to Cenozoic Australia paleomagnetic poles which can be compared to independent plate reconstructions. A two-Euler pole inversion for the Australian record recovers northward acceleration of Australia in the Eocene with rates that are consistent with plate reconstructions. We also apply the method to constrain rapid rates of motion for cratonic North America associated with the Keweenawan Track of late Mesoproterozoic paleomagnetic poles. The application of Markov chain Monte Carlo methods to estimate paleomagnetic Euler poles can open new directions in quantitative paleogeography.

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