Influence of Initial Geometry and Boundary Conditions on Flat Subduction Models and Resulting Topography

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Peter Nelson, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States and Robert Moucha, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, United States
Numerical investigations of surface deformation in response to flat slab subduction began with seminal papers by Bird (1988) and Mitrovica et al. (1989). Recently, a number of numerical studies have begun to explore the complexity in the dynamics of flat-slab subduction initiation and continuation, but did not address the corresponding surface deformation (English et al., 2003; Pérez-Campos et al., 2008; Liu et al., 2010; Jones et al., 2011; Arrial and Billen, 2013; Vogt and Gerya, 2014). Herein, we explore the conditions that lead to flat-slab subduction and characterize the resulting surface deformation using a 2D finite-difference marker-in-cell method. We specifically explore how initial model geometry and boundary conditions affect the evolution of the angle at which a slab subducts in the presence/absence of a buoyant oceanic plateau and the resulting surface topography. In our simulations, the surface is tracked through time as an internal erosion/sedimentation surface. The top boundary of the crust is overlaid by a “sticky” (viscous 10^17 Pa.s) water/air layer with correspondingly stratified densities. We apply a coupled surface processes model that solves the sediment transport/diffusion erosion equation at each time step to account for the corresponding crustal mass flux and its effect on crustal deformation. Model results show the initial angle of subduction has a substantial impact on the subduction angle of the slab and hence the evolution of topography. The results also indicate plate velocity and the presence of an oceanic plateau in a forced subduction only have a moderate effect on the angle of subduction.