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Flat subduction dynamics and deformation of the South American plate: Insights from analog modeling

Abstract : We present lithospheric-scale analog models, investigating how the absolute plates' motion and subduction of buoyant oceanic plateaus can affect both the kinematics and the geometry of subduction, possibly resulting in the appearance of flat slab segments, and how it changes the overriding plate tectonic regime. Experiments suggest that flat subductions only occur if a large amount of a buoyant slab segment is forced into subduction by kinematic boundary conditions, part of the buoyant plateau being incorporated in the steep part of the slab to balance the negative buoyancy of the dense oceanic slab. Slab flattening is a long-term process (~10 Ma), which requires the subduction of hundreds of kilometers of buoyant plateau. The overriding plate shortening rate increases if the oceanic plateau is large enough to decrease the slab pull effect. Slab flattening increases the interplate friction force and results in migration of the shortening zone within the interior of the overriding plate. The increase of the overriding plate topography close to the trench results from (1) the buoyancy of the plate subducting at trench and (2) the overriding plate shortening. Experiments are compared to the South American active margin, where two major horizontal slab segments had formed since the Pliocene. Along the South American subduction zone, flat slab segments below Peru and central Chile/NW Argentina appeared at ~7 Ma following the beginning of buoyant slab segments' subduction. In northern Ecuador and northern Chile, the process of slab flattening resulting from the Carnegie and Iquique ridges' subductions, respectively, seems to be active but not completed. The formation of flat slab segments below South America from the Pliocene may explain the deceleration of the Nazca plate trenchward velocity.
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Submitted on : Friday, October 1, 2021 - 10:53:23 AM
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Nicolas Espurt, Francesca Funiciello, Joseph Martinod, Benjamin Guillaume, Vincent Regard, et al.. Flat subduction dynamics and deformation of the South American plate: Insights from analog modeling. Tectonics, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2008, 27, pp.3011. ⟨10.1029/2007TC002175⟩. ⟨hal-00320058⟩



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