Slab temperature evolution over the lifetime of a subduction zone

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Adam F Holt, Cailey Brown Condit 


The thermal evolution of subducting slabs controls a range of subduction processes, yet we lack a robust understanding of how thermal structure develops over a subduction zone’s lifetime. We investigate the time-dependence of slab thermal structure using dynamically consistent, time evolving models. Pressure-temperature (P-T) conditions along the slab Moho and slab top exhibit substantial variability throughout the various phases of subduction: initiation, free sinking, mature subduction. This variability occurs in response to time-dependent subduction properties (e.g., fast vs. slow convergence) and thermal structure inherited from previous phases (e.g., due to upper plate aging). At a given depth, the slab cools rapidly during initiation, after which slower cooling occurs. In the case of the Moho, additional cooling occurs during the free sinking phase. We explore the implications of time-dependent thermal structure on exhumed rocks and slab dehydration. Modeled slab top P-T paths span much of the P-T space associated with exhumed rocks, suggesting a significant component of recorded variability may have dynamic origins. Coupling our P-T profiles with thermodynamic models of oceanic lithosphere, we show that dehydrating ultramafic rocks at the slab Moho provide the bulk of hydrous fluid at subarc depths during the earliest phases. Over subsequent phases, these rocks carry fluids into the deeper mantle, and it is mafic crust along the slab top that releases water at subarc depths. We conclude that varying subduction conditions, and non-steady-state thermal structure, challenge the utility of kinematically-driven models with constant subduction parameters, particularly for investigating thermal structure in the geological past.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology




Published: 2021-03-24 18:13

Last Updated: 2021-06-05 17:57

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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