SAM Gplates project


Technical overview

GPlates is an open-source, cross-platform plate tectonic geographic information system, enabling the interactive manipulation of plate-tectonic reconstructions and the visualization of geo-data through geological time.

It enables researchers to build topological plate models representing the mosaic of evolving plate boundary networks through time, useful for computing plate velocity fields as surface boundary conditions for mantle convection models and for investigating physical and chemical exchanges of material between the surface and the deep Earth along tectonic plate boundaries.

The ability of GPlates to visualize sub-surface 3D scalar fields together with traditional geological surface data enables researchers to analyze their relationship through geological time in a common plate tectonic reference frame. To achieve this a hierarchical cube map framework is used for rendering reconstructed surface raster data to support the rendering of sub-surface 3D scalar fields using graphics-hardware-accelerated ray-tracing techniques.

GPlates enables the construction of plate deformation zones — regions combining extension, compression and shearing that accommodate the relative motion between rigid blocks. Users can explore how strain rates, stretching/shortening factors and crustal thickness evolve through space and time, and interactively update the kinematics associated with deformation.

Where datasets described by geometries (points, lines or polygons) fall within deformation regions, the deformation can be applied to these geometries. Together, these tools allow users to build virtual Earth models that quantitatively describe continental assembly, fragmentation and dispersal and are interoperable with many other mapping and modelling tools, enabling applications in tectonics, geodynamics, basin evolution, orogenesis, deep Earth resource exploration, paleobiology, paleoceanography and paleoclimate.



Müller, R. D., Cannon, J., Qin, X., Watson, R.J., Williams, S., Gurnis, M., Williams, S., Pfaffelmoser, T., Seton, M., Russell, S.H.J. and Zahirovic, S., 2018, GPlates – Building a Virtual Earth Through Deep Time, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 19, 2243-2261,

Gurnis, M., Yang, T., Cannon, J., Turner, M., Williams, S., Flament, N. and Müller, R.D., 2018, Global tectonic reconstructions with continuously deforming and evolving rigid plates. Computers & Geosciences, 116, 32-41,

Müller, R.D., Russell, S. , Zahirovic, S., Williams, S, and Williams C., 2018, Modelling and visualising distributed crustal deformation of Australia and Zealandia using GPlates 2.0. ASEG Extended Abstracts 2018, 1-7.

Müller, R.D, Seton, M., Zahirovic, S., Williams, S.E., Matthews, K.J., Wright, N.M., Shephard, G.E., Maloney, K.Y., Barnett-Moore, N., Hosseinpour, M., Bower, D.J. and Cannon, J., 2016, Ocean basin evolution and global-scale plate reorganization events since Pangea breakup, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science, Vol 44, 107-138.

Müller, R.D., Qin, X., Sandwell, D.T., Dutkiewicz, A., Williams, S.E., Flament, N., Maus, S. and Seton, M, 2016, The GPlates Portal: Cloud-based interactive 3D visualization of global geophysical and geological data in a web browser, PLoS ONE 11(3), e0150883,

Cannon, J., Lau, E. and Müller, R.D., 2014, Plate tectonic raster reconstruction in GPlates, Solid Earth, 5, 741-755,

Gurnis, M., Turner, M., Zahirovic, S., DiCaprio, L., Spasojevich, S., Müller, R.D., Boyden, J., Seton, M., Manea, V.C., Bower, D. and Zahirovich, S., 2012, Plate Reconstructions with Continuously Closing Plates, Computers and Geosciences, 38, 35-42,

Qin, X., Müller, R.D., Cannon, J., Landgrebe, T. C. W., Heine, C., Watson, R. J. and Turner, M., 2012, The GPlates Geological Information Model and Markup Language Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 1, 111-134, 2012,

GPlates international links with the Deep Carbon Observatory:



Prof. Louis Moresi
University of Melbourne

Prof. Dietmar Müller
Sydney Uni