Flat Subduction and Dynamic Topography
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Mantle dynamics manifests at the surface via the horizontal motions of plates and the vertical deflections that influence topography and the non-hydrostatic geoid. The pioneering work of Mitrovica et al. (1989) and Gurnis (1990) on this dynamic topography revolutionized our understanding of sedimentary basin formation, sea level changes and continental flooding. The temporal evolution of subduction can explain the migration of basins and even the drainage reversal of the Amazon (Shephard et al., 2012; Eakin et al., 2014). Until recently, flat subduction has been seen as enhancing downward deflection of the overriding plate and increasing flooding. However, this interpretation depends crucially on the details of the morphology and density structure of the slab, which controls the loci and amplitude of the deflection. We tend to ignore morphological details in mantle dynamics because flow can smooth out short wavelength variations. We have shown instead that details matter! Using South America as a natural laboratory because of the large changes in morphology of the Nazca slab along strike, we show that downward deflection of the overriding plate and hence basin formation, do not occur over flat segments but at the leading edge, where slabs plunge back into the mantle. This is true in both Argentina and Peru. The temporal evolution from a 'normally' dipplng slab to a flat slab leads to uplift over flat segments rather than enhanced subsidence. Critical for this result is the use of a detailed morphological model of the present-day Nazca slab with a spatial resolution of 50-100 km and based on relocated seismicity and magnetotelluric results. The density structure of the slab, due to age and the presence of overthickened crust from aseismic ridge subduction is essential. Overthickened crust leads to buoyant slabs. We reproduce formation and deposition of the Acres-Solimoes basin and the evolution of the Amazon drainage basin in Peru as well as the Mar Chiquita depression in Argentina. We explain the uplift of the paleosols of the los Llanos formation and the Fitzcarrald Arch. We show the effects of strong viscosity variations and slab dip on the extent of continental flooding.