Visualizing Paleocurrents in a Web Application using GPlates

Document Type

Non-Art Poster

Publication Date



Paleocurrents are flow directions derived from features of sedimentary rocks that reveal the sense of the current of wind or water that deposited the sediment. In 2015, Brand, L. et al (doi: 10.1038/sdata.2015.25) created a global database of paleaocurrents, which contains over 1,000,000 measurements worldwide: North America, South America, Australia, Great Britain, parts of Western Europe, China, Africa fairly well represented. Antarctica, Eastern Europe, Asia modestly represented. Russia poorly represented. The contribution of this research project is a web application that uses the GPlates’ Application Programming Interface (API) to visualize global paleocurrents through time in an interactive way based on the data collected by Brand et al. This visualization shows the following: Precambrian: North American paleocurrents are variable and show no distinctive continent-wide patterns. Paleozoic: Paleocurrents show patterns that are continent-wide and typically flow towards the southwest across the continent. Mesozoic: Patterns are continent-wide and typically flow toward the east across the continent. North American paleocurrents are again variable and do not show continent-wide patterns. These trends are not expected in the model of conventional basinal geology. These trends show sedimentation on a scale larger than that predicted by conventional geologic models, suggesting such models may be inadequate. Continent-wide paleocurrents are unexpected (anomalous) but recognized and probably could be accommodated in conventional models. Supracontinental (megatrends) are unexpected and unrecognized and probably cannot be accommodated in conventional models.