Newtonian versus non-Newtonian upper mantle viscosity : implications for subduction initiation

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Date
2005-10-08
Authors
Billen, Magali I.
Hirth, Greg
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DOI
10.1029/2005GL023457
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Keywords
Dynamics of lithosphere and mantle
Plate boundary
Rheology: mantle
Subduction zone processes
Abstract
The effect of rheology on the evolution of the slab-tip during subduction initiation is analyzed using 2-D numerical flow models. Experimentally determined flow laws have both strong temperature- and stress-dependence, which leads to large local variations in viscosity with direct consequences for subduction initiation. We find that models with Newtonian viscosity lead to flat or coupled subduction due to hydrodynamic stresses that pull the slab-tip up towards the overriding plate. Non-Newtonian rheology reduces these hydrodynamic stresses by decreasing the wedge viscosity and the slab coupling to wedge-corner flow, rendering the small negative-slab buoyancy of the slab-tip sufficient to maintain its dip during the early stages of subduction.
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Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2005. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 32 (2005): L19304, doi:10.1029/2005GL023457.
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Geophysical Research Letters 32 (2005): L19304
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