The initiation of subduction: Criticality by addition of water?

K. Regenauer-Lieb, D. A. Yuen, J. Branlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


Subduction is a major process of plate tectonics; however, its initiation is not understood. We used high-resolution (less than 1 kilometer) finite-element models based on rheological data of the lithosphere to investigate the role played by water on initiating subduction. A solid-fluid thermomechanical instability is needed to drive a cold, stiff, and negatively buoyant lithosphere into the mantle. This instability can be triggered slowly by sedimentary loading over a time span of 100 million years. Our results indicate that subduction can proceed by a double feedback mechanism (thermoelastic and thermal-rheological) promoted by lubrication due to water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-580
Number of pages3
Issue number5542
StatePublished - Oct 19 2001


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