Dynamics of intra-oceanic subduction initiation, part 2: supra-subduction zone ophiolite formation and metamorphic sole exhumation in context of absolute plate motions
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Analyzing subduction initiation is key for understanding the coupling between plate tectonics and underlying mantle. Here we focus on supra-subduction zone (SSZ) ophiolites and how their formation links to intra-oceanic subduction initiation in an absolute plate motion frame. SSZ ophiolites form the majority of exposed oceanic lithosphere fragments and are widely recognized to have formed during intra-oceanic subduction initiation. Structural, petrological, geochemical, and plate kinematic constraints on their kinematic evolution show that SSZ crust forms at forearc spreading centers at the expense of a mantle wedge, thereby flattening the nascent slab. This leads to the typical inverted pressure gradients found in metamorphic soles that form at the subduction plate contact below and during SSZ crust crystallization. Former spreading centers are preserved in forearcs when subduction initiates along transform faults or off-ridge oceanic detachments. We show how these are reactivated when subduction initiates in the absolute plate motion direction of the inverting weakness zone. Upon inception of slab-pull due to e.g. eclogitization, the sole is separated from the slab, remains welded to the thinned overriding plate lithosphere and can become intruded by mafic dikes upon asthenospheric influx into the mantle wedge. We propound that most ophiolites thus formed under special geodynamic circumstances and may not be representative of normal oceanic crust. Our study highlights how far-field geodynamic processes and absolute plate motions may force intra-oceanic subduction initiation as key towards advancing our understanding of the entire plate tectonic cycle.