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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
16 Jan 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).
The effect of obliquity on temperature in subduction zones: insights from 3D numerical modeling
Alexis Plunder1,a, Cédric Thieulot1, and Douwe J. J. van Hinsbergen1 1Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
anow at: Sorbonne Université, CNRS-INSU, Institut des Sciences de la Terre Paris, ISTeP UMR 7193, F-75005 Paris, France
Abstract. In subduction zones the geotherm is thought to vary as a function of the subduction rate and the age of the subducting lithosphere. Along a single subduction zone the rate of subduction can strongly vary due to changes in the angle between the trench and the plate convergence vector, namely the subduction obliquity. We currently observe such a configuration all around the Pacific (e.g. Marianna, Chile, Aleutians). Subduction obliquity is also supposed in the geological record of Western and Central Turkey. In order to investigate this effect, we designed and computed simple thermo-kinematic finite element 3D numerical models. We prescribe the trench geometry by means of a simple mathematical function and compute the mantle flow in the mantle wedge only by solving the equation of mass and momentum conservation. We then solve the energy conservation equation until steady-state is reached. We analyse the results (i) in terms of mantle wedge flow with emphasis on the trench-parallel component and (ii) in terms of temperature along the plate interface by means of maps and depths-temperature path at the interface. We show that the effect of the trench curvature on the geotherm is substantial. A small obliquity yields a small but not negligible trench parallel mantle flow leading to differences of 50 °C along strike of the model. With increasing obliquity, the trench parallel component of the velocity consequently increases and the temperature variation can be as important as 200 °C along strike. This can even be larger with varying plate velocity. Finally, we discuss the implication of our simulations for the ubiquitous oblique systems that are observed on Earth, the limitation of our modeling approach and the significance for the geological record with an emphasis on the case study of Western and Central Turkey.

Citation: Plunder, A., Thieulot, C., and van Hinsbergen, D. J. J.: The effect of obliquity on temperature in subduction zones: insights from 3D numerical modeling, Solid Earth Discuss.,, in review, 2018.
Alexis Plunder et al.
Alexis Plunder et al.
Alexis Plunder et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The thermal state of the Earth's crust determines how it reacts to tectonic forces and to fluid flow responsible for ore formation. We hypothesize that the angle between plate motion and convergent boundaries determine the thermal regime of subduction zones (where a plate goes under another one). Computer models and geological reconstruction of Turkey were used to validate this hypothesis. This research was done to validate an hypothesis made on the basis of non quantitative field data.
The thermal state of the Earth's crust determines how it reacts to tectonic forces and to fluid...