Where does subduction initiate and cease? A global scale perspective

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115836. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


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Martina Ulvrova


The thermo-mechanical evolution of the Earths mantle is largely controlled by the dynamics of subduction zones, which connect the surface tectonic plates with the interior. However, little is known about the systematics of where subduction initiates and ceases within the framework of global plate motions and evolving continental configurations. Here, we investigate where new subduction zones preferentially form, and where they endure and cease using statistical analysis of large-scale simulations of mantle convection that feature self-consistent plate–like lithospheric behaviour and continental drift in the spherical annulus geometry. We juxtapose the results of numerical modelling with subduction histories retrieved from plate tectonic reconstruction models and from seismic tomography. Numerical models show that subduction initiation is largely controlled by the strength of the lithosphere and by the length of continental margins (for 2D models, the number of continental margins). Strong lithosphere favours subduction inception in the vicinity of the continents while for weak lithosphere the distribution of subduction initiation follows a random process distribution. Reconstructions suggest that subduction initiation and cessation on Earth is also not randomly distributed within the oceans, and more subduction zones cease in the vicinity of continental margins compared to subduction initiation. Our model results also suggest that intra-oceanic subduction initiation is more prevalent during times of supercontinent assembly (e.g. Pangea) compared to more recent continental dispersal, consistent with recent interpretations of relict slabs in seismic tomography.




Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Tectonics and Structure


convection, mantle convection, numerical modeling, subduction initiation, subduction zones


Published: 2020-05-29 07:06


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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