Necessity of the Ridge for the Flat Slab Subduction: Insights from the Peruvian Flat Slab

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Sanja Knezevic Antonijevic, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States, Lara S Wagner, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States, Susan L Beck, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, Maureen D Long, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States, George Zandt, Retired, Washington, DC, United States and Hernando Tavera, Instituto GeofĂ­sico del PerĂș, Lima, Peru
Flattening of the subducting plate has been linked to the formation of various geological features, including basement-cored uplifts, the cessation of arc volcanism, ignimbrite flare-ups, and the formation of high plateaus and ore deposits [Humphreys et al., 2003; Gutscher et al., 2000; Rosenbaum et al., 2005]. However, the mechanism responsible for the slab flattening is still poorly understood. Here we focus on the Peruvian flat slab, where the Nazca plate starts to bend at ~80 km depth and travels horizontally for several hundred kilometers, at which point steep subduction resumes. Based on a 1500 km long volcanic gap and intermediate depth seismicity patterns, the Peruvian flat slab appears to have the greatest along-strike extent and, therefore, has been suggested as a modern analogue to the putative flat slab during the Laramide orogeny in the western United States (~80-55 Ma). Combining 3D shear wave velocity structure and Rayleigh wave phase anisotropy between ~10° and 18° S, we find that the subducting Nazca plate is not uniformly flat along the entire region, but fails to the north of the subducting Nazca Ridge. Our results show that, in combination with trench retreat, rapid overriding plate motion, and/or presence of a thick cratonic root, the subduction of buoyant overthickened oceanic crust, such as the Nazca Ridge, is necessary for the formation and sustainability of flat slabs. This finding has important implications for the formation of flat slabs both past and present.