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Numerical models of trench migration in continental collision zones

Author(s): V. Magni | J. van Hunen | F. Funiciello | C. Faccenna

Journal: Solid Earth Discussions
ISSN 1869-9537

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 429;
Date: 2012;
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Continental collision is an intrinsic feature of plate tectonics. The closure of an oceanic basin leads to the onset of subduction of buoyant continental material, which slows down and eventually stops the subduction process. We perform a parametric study of the geometrical and rheological influence on subduction dynamics during the subduction of continental lithosphere. In 2-D numerical models of a free subduction system with temperature and stress-dependent rheology, the trench and the overriding plate move self-consistently as a function of the dynamics of the system (i.e. no external forces are imposed). This setup enables to study how continental subduction influences the trench migration. We found that in all models the trench starts to advance once the continent enters the subduction zone and continues to migrate until few million years after the ultimate slab detachment. Our results support the idea that the trench advancing is favoured and, in part provided by, the intrinsic force balance of continental collision. We suggest that the trench advance is first induced by the locking of the subduction zone and the subsequent steepening of the slab, and next by the sinking of the deepest oceanic part of the slab, during stretching and break-off of the slab. The amount of trench advancing ranges from 40 to 220 km and depends on the dip angle of the slab before the onset of collision.
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