Mantle wedge flow pattern and thermal structure in Northeast Japan: Effects of oblique subduction and 3-D slab geometry

Ikuko Wada, Jiangheng He, Akira Hasegawa, Junichi Nakajima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We develop a 3-D thermal model for the Northeast Japan subduction margin, using a realistic slab geometry for the subducting Pacific plate, and investigate the effects of oblique subduction and 3-D slab geometry on the mantle wedge flow pattern and the thermal structure. In the Tohoku region, the mantle wedge flow pattern is nearly two-dimensional resulting in a thermal structure similar to those obtained by a 2-D model, owing to the simple slab geometry and subduction nearly perpendicular to the margin. However, in Hokkaido, oblique subduction leads to 3-D mantle wedge flow with northerly inflow and west-northwestward outflow and also results in lower temperatures in the shallow part of the mantle wedge than in Tohoku due to lower sinking rate of the slab. Between Hokkaido and Tohoku, the slab has a hinge-like shape due to a relatively sharp change in the dip direction. In this hinge zone, northerly mantle inflow from Hokkaido and westerly mantle inflow from Tohoku converge, discouraging inflow from northwest and resulting in a cooler mantle wedge. The model-predicted mantle wedge flow patterns are consistent with observed seismic anisotropy and may explain the orientations of volcanic cross-chains. The predicted 3-D thermal structure correlates well with the along-arc variations in the location of the frontal arc volcanoes and help to provide new insights into the surface heat flow pattern and the down-dip extent of interplate earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank M. Morishige and Y. Tamura for helpful discussions, and M.I. Billen and an anonymous reviewer for thorough reviews that helped to improve the manuscript significantly. We used Paraview ( ) and GMT ( ) to create figures in this article. This work was supported by Intramural Research Grant for Special Research Projects the International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University , Japan (IW).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • 3-D mantle wedge flow pattern
  • 3-D slab geometry
  • 3-D subduction zone thermal structure
  • NE Japan subduction zone
  • Oblique subduction
  • Volcano and earthquake distributions


Dive into the research topics of 'Mantle wedge flow pattern and thermal structure in Northeast Japan: Effects of oblique subduction and 3-D slab geometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this