Flowlines and Motion Paths


Author: Kayla Maloney1

1 EarthByte Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Australia

Flowlines and Motion Paths

Aim

Included Files

Background

Flowlines

Motion Paths

Exercise 1 – Creating and Using Flowlines

Exercise 2 – Creating and Using Motion Paths

Aim


This tutorial is designed to teach the user how and when to use the flowline and motion path features in GPlates.

Included Files


For this part of the tutorial you will need the associated data bundle, which includes the following files:

 

Rotation Model File: Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Rotation_20100927.rot

 

Coastline File: Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Coastlines_20101209.gpml

 

Continent-Ocean Boundary (COB) File: Global_EarthByte_GPlates_PresentDay_COBs_20101209.gpml

 

Spreading Ridge File: Global_EarthByte_GPlates_PresentDay_Ridges_20100927.gpml

 

Hotspot File: HS_triangles.dat

 

Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain File: HawaiianEmperorChain.gpml

Click here to download these files.

Background


Flowlines

Flowlines are half stage rotations that are calculated by GPlates based on the rotation file you are using. They are used to track plate motion away from spreading ridges. Features like fracture zones are real-world examples of flowlines.

 

Motion Paths

Motions paths show the absolute motion of a feature in GPlates based on the rotation file you are using. They can be used to track the absolute motion of any feature, but are particularly useful for features like hotspots, as you can compare the motion path produced by your rotation file to the actual hotspot track.

Exercise 1 – Creating and Using Flowlines


1. Open GPlates

 

2. File > Open Feature Collection…(Figure 1) > select the Rotation Model File, the Coastline File, the COB File, and the Spreading Ridge File from the data bundle for this tutorial (Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Rotation_20100927.rot, Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Coastlines_20101209.gpml, Global_EarthByte_GPlates_PresentDay_COBs_20101209.gpml, Global_EarthByte_GPlates_PresentDay_Ridges_20100927.gpml)

Figure 1. Step 2 - How to open a feature collection from menu bar.

3. Rotate the globe so that the spreading ridge between South America and Africa is centred on your screen (Figure 2).

Figure 2. View of spreading ridge between South America and Africa

4. Select your Digitise New Multi-point Geometry tool   and use it to create a point located on the spreading ridge. Then click on the Create Feature button on the right side of the globe (Figure 3). 

Figure 3. Digitised point on the spreading ridge with New Geometry sidebar  

This will open up the Create Feature menu (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Create Feature menu

5. Choose your “Feature Type” to be “gpml:Flowline” from the list and click Next.

6. In this window you fill in the properties of your point. In the “Right Plate ID” field put “701” (Africa), in the “Left Plate ID” field put “201” (South America), in “Begin (time of appearance)” put “120”, in “End (time of disappearance)” put “0”, and then “Name” your feature “201-701 flowline” (Figure 5). Then click Next.

Figure 5. Create Feature menu - flowline properties

7. Under the field “Interpret provided geometries as:” choose “Spreading centre(s)”. Under “Insert multiple times” fill in the “From” field as “120”, the “to” field as “0”, and the “in steps of” field as “10”. Then click on the Insert button under “Insert multiple times”. This should populate the Times section from 0 to 120 in increments of 10 (Figure 6). Then click Next.

Figure 6. Create Feature menu - geometry and reconstruction times

8. Choose <Create a new feature collection> then click Create.

9. A grey flowline with arrows indicating direction of plate motion at that time appears, with a yellow point indicating the position of the spreading ridge (Figure 7). You can reconstruct this flowline through time; enter 120 in the time dialog box, and then use the slider or the arrows to move forward through time to see the flowline as it is created.

Figure 7. Flowline between South America and Africa

10. If you are satisfied with your flowline, don’t forget to save it!

 

Note: You can also create flowlines using continent-ocean boundaries (COBs) instead of the spreading ridge. To do this, in Step 4 instead of digitising a point on the spreading ridge, choose a point on a COB. Continue with steps 5 and 6 as above, then for Step 7 under “Interpret provided geometries as:” choose either “Left-plate end-points(s)” or “Right-plate end-points” depending on which plate you have placed your point. Follow the rest of the directions as above.

 

Note: You can create multiple flowlines at the same time, provided all of the points have the same geometry, ie. they must all be points on a spreading centre, or all on the left plate, or all on the right plate.

Exercise 2 – Creating and Using Motion Paths


1. If not done already, open GPlates.

 

2. File > Open Feature Collection as done in Exercise 1 above, and select the Rotation Model File, the Coastline File, the Hotspot File, and the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain File from the data bundle for this tutorial (Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Rotation_20100927.rot, Global_EarthByte_GPlates_Coastlines_20101209.gpml, HS_triangles.dat, HawaiianEmperorChain.gpml).

 

3. Rotate the globe so that the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain in the Pacific Ocean is centred on your screen (Figure 8). There should be a triangle indicating a hotspot at the end of the Hawaiian Island chain.

Figure 8. View of Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain and present day hotspots (blue triangles)

4. Select your Digitise New Multi-point Geometry tool   and use it to create a point located on the Hawaiian hotspot triangle. Then click on the Create Feature button on the right side of the globe (Figure 9).

Figure 9. View of digitised geometry on Hawaiian hotspot and New Geometry sidebar

This will open up the Create Feature menu (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Create Feature menu

5. Choose your “Feature Type” to be “gpml:MotionPath” from the list and click Next.

 

6. In this window you fill in the properties of your point. In the “Plate ID:” field put “2” (Pacific Hotspot plate ID), for “Begin (time of appearance):” put “80”, for “End (time of disappearance):” check the “Distant Future” box, and under “Name:” put “Hawaiian Emperor Hotspot Path” (Figure 11). Then click Next.

Figure 11. Create Feature menu - motion path properties

7. In the “Relative Plate Id” field enter the ID of the plate you wish to calculate motion relative to, in this case “901” (Pacific). Under the “Insert multiple times” section put a “From” time of “80” Ma, a “to” time of “0” Ma, and an “in steps of” time of “5” my, then click on the “Insert” button in this section. This should populate the chart in this window (Figure 12). Then click Next.

Figure 12. Create Feature menu - relative plate id and reconstruction times

8. Choose <Create a new feature collection> then click Create.

 

9. A line showing the motion path of the hotspot relative to the Pacific plate should appear. Note how it follows the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain (Figure 13). As with flowlines you can reconstruct this motion path through time; enter 80 in the time dialog box, and then use the slider or the arrows to move forward through time to see the motion path as it is created.

Figure 13. Motion path of the Hawaiian hotspot along the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain

10. If you are satisfied with your motion path, don’t forget to save it!

 

Note: You can create multiple motion paths at the same time, provided all of the points have the same plate ids and relative plate ids.