Imaging the Peruvian Flat Slab with Rayleigh Wave Tomography Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Knezevic Antonijevic, Sanja
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geological Sciences
  • In subduction zones the oceanic plates descend at a broad range of dip angles. A “flat slab” is an oceanic plate that starts to subduct steeply, but bends at ~100 km depth and continues almost horizontally for several hundred kilometers. This unusual slab geometry has been linked to various geologic features, including the cessation of arc volcanism, basement core uplifts removed far from subducting margins, and the formation of high plateaus. Despite the prevalence of flat slabs worldwide since the Proterozoic, questions on how flat slabs form, persist, and re-steepen remains a topic of ongoing research. Even less clear is how this phenomenon relates to unusual features observed at the surface. To better understand the causes and consequences of slab flattening I focus on the Peruvian flat slab. This is not only the biggest flat slab region today, but due to the oblique angle at which the Nazca Plate subducts under the South American Plate, it also provides unique opportunity to get insights into the temporal evolution of the flat slab. Using ambient noise and earthquake-generated Rayleigh waves recorded at several contemporary dense seismic networks, I was able to perform unprecedentedly high resolution imaging of the subduction zone in southern Peru. Surprisingly, instead of imaging a vast flat slab region as expected, I found that the flat slab tears and re-steepens north of the subducting Nazca Ridge. The change in slab geometry is associated with variations in the slab’s internal strain along strike, as inferred from slab-related anisotropy. Based on newly-discovered features I discuss the critical role of the subducting ridges in the formation and longevity of flat slabs. The slab tear created a new mantle pathway between the torn slab and the flat slab remnant to the east, and is possibly linked to the profound low velocity anomaly located under the eastern corner of the flat slab. Finally, I re-evaluate the connection between slab flattening and volcanic patterns at the surface. These findings have important implications for all present-day and paleo-flat slab regions, such as the one proposed for the western United States during the Laramide orogeny ~80-55 Ma.
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  • In Copyright
  • Vlahovic, Gordana
  • Wagner, Lara
  • Lees, Jonathan
  • Stewart, Kevin
  • Coleman, Drew S.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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