Differentiating induced versus spontaneous subduction initiation using thermomechanical models and metamorphic soles

Xin Zhou, Ikuko Wada

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27 Scopus citations


Despite the critical role of subduction in plate tectonics, the dynamics of its initiation remains unclear. High-temperature low-pressure metamorphic soles are vestiges of subduction initiation, providing records of the pressure and temperature conditions along the subducting slab surface during subduction initiation that can possibly differentiate the two end-member subduction initiation modes: spontaneous and induced. Here, using numerical models, we show that the slab surface temperature reaches 800–900 °C at ~1 GPa over a wide range of parameter values for spontaneous subduction initiation whereas for induced subduction initiation, such conditions can be reached only if the age of the overriding plate is <5 Ma. These modeling results indicate that spontaneous subduction initiation would be more favorable for creating high-temperature conditions. However, the synthesis of our modeling results and geological observations indicate that the majority of the metamorphic soles likely formed during induced subduction initiation that involved a young overriding plate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4632
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Prof. Taras Gerya for providing the numerical code. X.Z. also benefited from the discussion with Prof. Zhong-hai Li. This research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation through Grant EAR-1850683 to I.W., the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities through startup funds, and the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of CAS (XDB42000000, XDB18000000) to X.Z.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


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