The cyclical opening and closing of ocean basins caused by movement of the Earth's plates. The Wilson cycle begins with a rising plume of magma and the thinning of the overlying crust. As the crust continues to thin due to extensional tectonic forces, an ocean basin forms and sediments accumulate along its margins. Subsequently subduction is initiated on one of the ocean basin's margins and the ocean basin closes up. When the crust begins to thin again, another cycle begins. The Wilson cycle is named after the Canadian geophysicist J. Tuzo Wilson (1908-1993).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.