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On the relationships between slab dip, back-arc stress, upper plate absolute motion, and crustal nature in subduction zones

Abstract : [1] Statistical analysis of modern oceanic subduction zone parameters, such as the age of a downgoing plate or the absolute plate motions, is performed in order to investigate which parameter controls the dip of a slab and, conversely, what the influence of slab geometry is on upper plate behavior. For that purpose, parameters have been determined from global databases along 159 transects from all subduction zones that are not perturbed by nearby collision or ridge/plateau/seamount subduction. On the basis of tomographic images, slabs that penetrate through, or lie on, the 670 km discontinuity are also identified. The results of the statistical analysis are as follows: (1) Back-arc stress correlates with slab dip, i.e., back-arc spreading is observed for deep dips (deeper than 125 km) larger than 50°, whereas back-arc shortening occurs only for deep dips less than 30°. (2) Slab dip correlates with absolute motion of the overriding plate. The correlation is even better when the slab lies on, or even more penetrates through, the 670 km discontinuity. (3) Slabs dip more steeply, by about 20° on average, beneath oceanic overriding plates than beneath continental ones. (4) Slabs dip more steeply on average by about 10° near edges. (5) Slab dip does not correlate with the magnitude of slab pull, the age of subducting lithosphere at the trench, the thermal regime of the subducting lithosphere, the convergence rate, or the subduction polarity (east versus west). The present study provides evidence that the upper plate absolute motion plays an important role on slab dip, as well as on upper plate strain. Retreating overriding plates are often oceanic ones and thus may partially explain the steeper slab dips beneath oceanic upper plates. One can infer that low slab dips correlate well with compression in continental advancing upper plates, whereas steep dips are often associated with extension in oceanic retreating upper plates. Excess weight of old slabs is often counterbalanced by other forces, probably asthenospheric in origin, such as lateral mantle flow near slab edges or anchor forces, to determine slab dip. Components: 12,676 words, 13 figures, 1 table.
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Serge Lallemand, Arnauld Heuret, David Boutelier. On the relationships between slab dip, back-arc stress, upper plate absolute motion, and crustal nature in subduction zones. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2005, 6 (9), pp.Q09006. ⟨10.1029/2005GC000917⟩. ⟨hal-01261567⟩

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