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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 21 Mar 2018

Research article | 21 Mar 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript was accepted for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

The influence of subducting slab advance and erosion on overriding plate deformation in orogen syntaxes

Matthias Nettesheim1, Todd A. Ehlers1, David M. Whipp2, and Alexander Koptev1 Matthias Nettesheim et al.
  • 1Department of Geology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  • 2Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Focused, rapid exhumation of rocks is observed at some plate corners, but the driving mechanisms remain poorly understood and contested. In this study, we use a fully coupled thermo-mechanical numerical model to investigate the effect of slab advance and different erosion scenarios on overriding plate deformation. The subducting slab in the model is curved in 3D, analogous to the indenter geometry observed in seismic studies. We find that the amount of slab advance dramatically changes the orientation of major shear zones in the upper plate and the location of rock uplift zones. Shear along the subduction interface facilitates the formation of a basal detachment situated above the indenter, causing localized rock uplift there. Switching from flat (total erosion) to more realistic fluvial erosion leads to variation of rock uplift on the catchment-scale. Here, deepest exhumation again occurred above the indenter apex. We conclude that the change in orientation and dip angle set by the indenter geometry facilitates creation of localized uplift regions as long as subduction of the down-going plate is active. Tectonic uplift is modulated on even smaller scales by lithostatic pressure from the overburden of the growing orogen, and highest rock uplift can occur when a strong tectonic uplift field spatially coincides with large erosion potential. This implies that both the geometry of the subducting plate and the geomorphic and climatic conditions are important for the creation of focused, rapid exhumation.

Matthias Nettesheim et al.
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Matthias Nettesheim et al.
Matthias Nettesheim et al.
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Latest update: 18 Oct 2018
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In this modeling study, we investigate rock uplift at plate corners (syntaxes). These are characterized by a unique bent geometry at subduction zones and exhibit some of the world's highest rock uplift rates. We find that the style of deformation changes above the plate's bent section and that active subduction is necessary to generate an isolated region of rapid uplift. Strong erosion there localize uplift on even smaller scales, suggesting both tectonic and surface processes are important.
In this modeling study, we investigate rock uplift at plate corners (syntaxes). These are...