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Strain localization mechanisms for subduction initiation at passive margins

Abstract : It is widely accepted that subduction initiation at modern Earth passive margin systems critically depends on the buoyancy and strength of the oceanic lithosphere and requires failure of the load-bearing crustal and mantle layers. As such, subduction initiation upon orthogonal convergence is controlled by the age of the oceanic lithosphere and thus the strength contrast at the margin. However, it is still unclear where along the margin and how subduction initiates. In particular, rheologically-controlled mechanisms are poorly understood and require further investigation. Therefore, this combined analogue and numerical modelling study aims at exploring the effects of first order rheological and kinematic conditions on subduction initiation at passive margins. Our results highlight the sensitivity of early stages of subduction initiation to the initial rheological setup as well as evolving thermo-mechanical feedback mechanisms. Additionally, they provide more insights on the conditions responsible for the locus of subduction initiation. We infer that the locus of subduction is controlled by the rheology of both the crust and the mantle lithosphere at the margin, which is in strong correlation with the thermal age of the oceanic lithosphere. Suitable conditions for subduction initiation at passive margins correspond to an intermediate age (ca. 80 Myr) of the oceanic lithosphere. In all other cases deformation localizes within the oceanic lithosphere or affects the entire continent. We advocate the significance of crust-mantle decoupling at the passive margin for its inversion and possible evolution towards a subduction zone. Additionally, the development of a self-sustaining subduction zone will fail in the absence of weakening mechanisms taking place in the mantle lithosphere such as thermal softening (shear heating) and low temperature plasticity (Peierls mechanism).
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Submitted on : Monday, October 5, 2020 - 9:17:27 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:19:03 AM

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A. Auzemery, E. Willingshofer, Philippe Yamato, Thibault Duretz, D. Sokoutis. Strain localization mechanisms for subduction initiation at passive margins. Global and Planetary Change, Elsevier, 2020, 195, pp.103323. ⟨10.1016/j.gloplacha.2020.103323⟩. ⟨insu-02957308⟩

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