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On the role of subducting oceanic plateaus in the development of shallow flat subduction.

van Hunen , J. and van den Berg , A. P. and Vlaar, N. J. (2002) 'On the role of subducting oceanic plateaus in the development of shallow flat subduction.', Tectonophysics., 352 (3-4). pp. 317-333.


Oceanic plateaus, aseismic ridges or seamount chains all have a thickened crust and their subduction has been proposed as a possible mechanism to explain the occurrence of flat subduction and related absence of arc magmatism below Peru, Central Chile and at the Nankai Trough (Japan). Their extra compositional buoyancy could prohibit the slab from sinking into the mantle. With a numerical thermochemical convection model, we simulated the subduction of an oceanic lithosphere that contains an oceanic crustal plateau of 18-km thickness. With a systematic variation, we examined the required physical parameters to obtain shallow flat subduction. Metastability of the basaltic crust in the eclogite stability field is of crucial importance for the slab to remain buoyant throughout the subduction process. In a 44-Ma-old subducting plate, basalt must be able to survive a temperature of 600–700 jC to keep the plate buoyant sufficiently long to cause a flat-slab segment. We found that the maximum yield stress in the slab must be limited to about 600 MPa to allow for the necessary bending to the horizontal. Young slabs show flat subduction for larger parameter ranges than old slabs, since they are less gravitationally unstable and show less resistance against bending. Hydrous weakening of the mantle wedge area and lowermost continent are required to allow for the necessary deformation of a change in subduction style from steep to flat. The maximum flat slab extent is about 300 km, which is sufficient to explain the observed shallow flat subduction near the Nankai Trough (Japan). However, additional mechanisms, such as active overthrusting by an overriding continental plate, need to be invoked to explain the flatslab segments up to 500 km long below Peru and Central Chile.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Flat subduction, Buoyancy, Rheology, Oceanic plateaus, Metamorphism, Kinetics.
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Record Created:23 Feb 2009
Last Modified:20 Jul 2010 17:34

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