2011: Subduction of young oceanic plates: a numerical study with application to aborted thermal-chemical plumes

Subduction of young oceanic plates: a numerical study with application to aborted thermal-chemical plumes

Abstract

We investigated numerical models of initiation and subsequent evolution of subduction of young (10–30 Myr) oceanic lithosphere. Systematic numerical experiments were carried out by varying the age of the subducting plate (10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 25 and 30 Myr), the rate of induced convergence (2, 4 and 5 cm/yr) and the degree of hydration (0 and 2 wt% H2O) of the pre-existing weak oceanic fracture zone along which subduction is initiated. Despite the prescribed plate forcing, spontaneously retreating oceanic subduction with a pronounced magmatic arc and a backarc basin was obtained in a majority of the experiments. It was also found that the younger age of oceanic lithosphere results in more intense dehydration and partial melting of the slab during and after the induced subduction initiation due to the shallow dispositions of the isotherms. Partial melting of the subducted young crust may create thermal-chemical instabilities (cold plumes) that ascend along the slab-mantle interface until they either freeze at depth or detach from the slab and penetrate the upper plate lithosphere contributing to the nucleation and growth of a volcanic arc. Freezing of the plumes in the slab-mantle interface is favored by subduction of very young lithosphere (i.e., 10 Myr) at moderate rate (4 cm/yr) of convergence. Such aborted plumes may correspond to Cretaceous partially melted MORB-derived slab material and associated adakitic tonalitic-trondhjemitic rocks crystallized at ca. 50 km depth in the slab-mantle interface and exhumed in a subduction channel (serpentinite mélanges) in eastern Cuba.

Keywords: partial melting; serpentinite mélange; subduction initiation; thermal‐chemical plumes; volcanic arc

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To Cite this article: Blanco-Quintero, I. F., Gerya, T. V., García-Casco, A., Castro, A. (2011): Subduction of young oceanic plates: a numerical study with application to aborted thermal-chemical plumes. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst, 12, Q10012.

DOI: 10.1029/2011GC003717

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