The Cenozoic tectonic evolution of Northern Europe involves a number of events that are difficult to reconcile with an intra-plate setting, including magmatic events and topographic changes that are located far from plate boundaries. It is entirely plausible to relate these events to sublithospheric processes in a vigorously convecting mantle. However, traditional mantle convection models are difficult to link to the spatiotemporal constraints provided by geologic archives, because their output invariably depends on the assumptions of poorly known and arbitrary initial conditions. Here we explore a new class of time-dependent global geodynamic Earth models, known as retrodictions, which are based on inverse approach to
reconstruct past mantle flow and structure. Our high resolution, compressible, global mantle ﬂow retrodictions involve more than 670 million finite elements.
Going back 50 million years ago they reveal a preferential flow direction in the sub-European mantle related to material influx from the North Atlantic realm. The retrodictions allow us to track material back in time from any given sampling location, making them potentially useful, for example, to geochemical studies. Our results call for improved estimates on non-isostatic vertical motion of the Earth’s surface – provided, for instance, by basin analysis, seismic stratigraphy, landform studies, thermochronological data, or the sedimentation record – to constrain the recent mantle ﬂow history beneath northern Europe and suggest that mantle ﬂow retrodictions may yield powerful synergies across diﬀerent Earth sciences disciplines.