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Evidence for rapid large-amplitude vertical motions in the Valencia Trough (Western Mediterranean) generated by 3D subduction slab roll-back

Abstract : The mechanisms controlling the Cenozoic subsidence of the Valencia Trough, located in the Western Mediterranean, are poorly understood. The Cenozoic geodynamic evolution of the Western Mediterranean is complex comprising subduction, slab roll-back, back-arc extension, collision, and lithosphere delamination. We investigate the subsidence of a regionally observed unconformity, here referred to as the Miocene Unconformity, which separates Mesozoic from latest Palaeogene to Neogene sediments. Using a dense grid of seismic reflection data, well data and 3D flexural backstripping, we show that the Miocene Unconformity in the SW Valencia Trough subsided by more than 1.5 km to the present day at an average rate of 90 m/Myr. The absence of Cenozoic extensional faults affecting the basement shown by seismic data indicates that this rapid subsidence is not caused by Cenozoic rifting or remaining Mesozoic post-rift thermal subsidence. Neither can this subsidence be explained by subduction dynamic subsidence or flexural loading related to the thin-skin Betic fold and thrust belt which only affects subsidence observed near the deformation front.

We interpret the 1.5 km subsidence of the Miocene Unconformity as the collapse of a back-arc transient uplift event. Erosion during this uplift, resulting in the formation of the Miocene Unconformity, is estimated to exceed 4 km. Transient uplift was likely caused by heating of back-arc lithosphere and asthenosphere, combined with mantle dynamic uplift, both caused by segmentation of Tethyan subduction resulting in slab tear. Subsidence resulted from thermal equilibration and the removal of mantle flow dynamic support Tethyan subduction slab roll-back. We propose that our observations and interpretation of rapid back-arc km-scale uplift and collapse have global applicability for other back-arc regions experiencing subduction segmentation and slab tear during subduction slab roll-back.

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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 2, 2022 - 3:21:52 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 10:11:10 AM

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Penggao Fang, Julie Tugend, Geoffroy Mohn, Nick Kusznir, Weiwei Ding. Evidence for rapid large-amplitude vertical motions in the Valencia Trough (Western Mediterranean) generated by 3D subduction slab roll-back. EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS, 2021, 575, ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117179⟩. ⟨insu-03594273⟩

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