Construction of semi-dynamic model of subduction zone with given plate kinematics in 3D sphere
© The Society of Geomagnetism and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences (SGEPSS); The Seismological Society of Japan; The Volcanological Society of Japan; The Geodetic Society of Japan; The Japanese Society for Planetary Sciences; TERRAPUB. 2010
Received: 31 May 2010
Accepted: 28 September 2010
Published: 13 December 2010
We present a semi-dynamic subduction zone model in a three-dimensional spherical shell. In this model, velocity is imposed on the top surface and in a small three-dimensional region around the shallow plate boundary while below this region, the slab is able to subduct under its own weight. Surface plate velocities are given by Euler’s theorem of rigid plate rotation on a sphere. The velocity imposed in the region around the plate boundary is determined so that mass conservation inside the region is satisfied. A kinematic trench migration can be easily incorporated in this model. As an application of this model, mantle flow around slab edges is considered, and we find that the effect of Earth curvature is small by comparing our model with a similar one in a rectangular box, at least for the parameters used in this study. As a second application of the model, mantle flow around a plate junction is studied, and we find the existence of mantle return flow perpendicular to the plate boundary. Since this model can naturally incorporate the spherical geometry and plate movement on the sphere, it is useful for studying a specific subduction zone where the plate kinematics is well constrained.
Roughly speaking, there are two types of approaches to modeling subduction zones. One is to impose the velocity and the geometry of the plate in advance, an approach that has been used for a long time (e.g., McKenzie, 1969; Kneller and van Keken, 2007, 2008). The other is to calculate slab movement more or less dynamically (e.g., Billen et al., 2003; Billen and Hirth, 2005; Schellart et al., 2007; Morra et al., 2009). Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Conceptually, fully dynamic models are undoubtedly preferable but this approach is justified only when we know the rheology of plate well enough. In addition, even if we know such a rheology, it is often difficult to apply this model to the specific subduction zone, since we cannot control the velocity and geometry of subduction zones. However, it is a useful technique to study the general characteristics of subduction zones.
On the other hand, using the kinematic approach, we can construct models that incorporate the present velocity and geometry of specific subduction zones to compare the models with observations. The demerit is that this kind of model may miss some important dynamics of subduction, such as the change in plate boundaries and trench curvature with time (Schellart et al., 2007). Thus, we believe that these two types of approaches are complementary to each other and that an understanding of both type of approaches will lead to further understanding of subduction zones.
The philosophy of imposing velocity on some part is not as novel as mentioned above. But, in reality, it is not so easy to construct models based on it because it is difficult to find an appropriate velocity distribution to impose. Because of simpleness, this type of model has been constructed in the two-dimensional (2D) case since the early days of plate tectonics, but 3D modeling is a recent development (e.g., Kneller and van Keken, 2007, 2008; Honda, 2009). Kneller and van Keken (2007, 2008) imposed the velocity of the whole subducting plate in a rectangular box to study the 3D flow of the curved subduction zone. Honda (2008, 2009) constructed a model somewhat between kinematic and dynamic models in a rectangular box. The velocity on the surface and the small region surrounding a shallow plate boundary are given a priori. The velocity imposed in the plate boundary region is determined so that mass conservation inside the region is satisfied under the assumption that the relative velocity of oceanic subregion with respect to continental subregion is parallel to the plate boundary. Deeper flow is affected by the slab density. The model can include the trench migration kinematically.
In this paper, we show that we can extend the same concept of Honda (2008, 2009) to more realistic geometry (i.e., cylindrical and spherical geometry) and show some examples of the applications for the case of spherical geometry.
2. General Model Descriptions
2.1 Basic equations
The symbol used in this study and its meaning and value.
i-component of velocity
Deviatric stress tensor
Unit vector in i-direction
The coefficient of thermal expansion
3 × 10 -5/K
10 -6 m2/s
Angular velocity of plate A
Angular velocity of plate B
Speed of plate A at θ = 90° in spherical geometry
Speed of plate B at θ = 90° in spherical geometry
Velocity component on the continental subregion
Velocity component on the oceanic subregion
Minimum r of the boundary region
Maximum r of the boundary region
Minimum θ of the boundary region
Maximum θ of the boundary region
Minimum φ of the boundary region
Maximum φ of the boundary region
Radial distance of a finite volume
Inclination of a finite volume
Azimuth of a finite volume
The position of trench
These equations are discretized using finite volumes and they are solved by the program StagYY (Tackley, 2008) which is modified to include plate-like features as described below. other details are described in the section of examples.
2.2 Implementation of subduction-like features
In the following discussion, the “north” of the spherical coordinate system corresponds to the axis of rotation and the convergence of each plate is perpendicular to longitude, that is, the axes of both plate rotations are the same.
3.1 Flow around slab edges: convergent-transform fault boundary
The slab edge flow shown in Fig. 5 is interesting in terms of the existence/non-existence of along-arc flow in the sub-slab mantle (e.g., Long and Silver, 2008). Honda (2009) first reported the results of this type of model and showed that significant along-arc flow in the sub-slab mantle does not exist unless the trench retreat is large. comparing the results shown in Fig. 5(a, c) with the corresponding case in a rectangular box (see figures 2 and 3 in Honda (2009)), we can see that the horizontal flow around slab edges in spherical geometry is similar to that in a rectangular box, which means the effect of Earth curvature on horizontal flow is small, at least for the parameters considered in this study.
3.2 Flow around a plate junction
Nakajima et al. (2006) examined the fast directions of shear-wave splitting near the plate junction of the southwestern part of the Kurile arc and the northeastern Japan arc. From their analysis, they suggested that mantle return flow occurs sub-parallel to the local maximum dip of the slab. The result shown in Fig. 6 may support their inference. However, further systematic study, such as the estimate of seismic anisotropy (e.g., Kneller and van Keken, 2007, 2008) is necessary.
4. Discussion and Conclusion
In this paper, we have constructed a semi-dynamic subduction zone model in a 3D spherical shell and shown some applications. Our model enables the slab to subduct by imposing velocities in a small boundary region so that the number of finite volumes needed is smaller than that required for a complex slab rheology to achieve subduction-like features, such as the narrow low viscosity shear zone (Billen and Hirth, 2005). Additionally, the model can easily incorporate observations such as the geometry of the shallow part of the slab and plate boundary. The model can also include the over-riding plate, which is not considered in the “free subduction” model (e.g., Schellart et al., 2007; Morra et al., 2009) but is sometimes important (Yamato et al., 2009). However, the model also has a number of limitations, such as an inability to handle more than two plates. In this study, we assume that the pole of both plate motions coincides, although this is not true in general. In theory, such a case could be handled by splitting the plate motion into the motion relative to the reference plate and the absolute motion of the reference plate. In practice, however, this will make the calculations difficult because of the complex boundary conditions. Despite these difficulties, our model is useful for understanding the character of subduction zones and can be applied for a particular pair of plates, such as the Pacific plate and slowly moving Eurasia plate.
It is obvious that our model is better on the point that this uses a 3D sphere, which is the Earth’s geometry, and the effects of Earth curvature can be correctly taken into account. In our examples, we do not see a significant difference between the results in the 3D rectangular box and spherical shell geometry. If, however, we modeled a broader area or deeper processes, such as the deformation of subducted slabs that include the stagnation and the tear in the transition zone and the buckling at the CMq (e.g., Fukao et al., 2001; Loubet et al., 2009; Obayashi et al., 2009), the difference is expected to become more significant, and our model might give a better understanding of such phenomena.
A part of this work was done, while P. J. T. was a visiting researcher of Earthquake Research Institute, the University of Tokyo. This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (21-8038) and for Scientific Research (19104011). The Generic Mapping Tools (Wessel and Smith, 1998) were used to draw figures in this study. For this study, we have used the computer systems of the Earthquake Information Center of the Earthquake Research Institute, the University of Tokyo. We thank Masanori Kameyama for his useful comments.
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