Slab pull

Slab pull is that part of the motion of a tectonic plate caused by its subduction. In 1975 Forsyth and Uyeda showed using inverse theory methods that of the many likely driving forces of plates slab pull was the strongest.[1] Plate motion is partly driven by the weight of cold, dense plates sinking into the mantle at oceanic trenches.[2][3] This force and slab suction account for almost all of the force driving plate tectonics. The ridge push at rifts contributes only 5 to 10%.[4]

Carlson et al. (1983)[5] in Lallemandet al. (2005)[6] defined the slab pull force as:

Where:

K is 4.2g (gravitational acceleration = 9.81 m/s2) according to McNutt (1984);[7]
Δρ = 80 kg/m3 is the mean density difference between the slab and the surrounding asthenosphere;
L is the slab length calculated only for the part above 670 km (the upper/lower mantle boundary);
A is the slab age in Ma at the trench.

The slab pull force manifests itself between two extreme forms:

Between these two examples there is the evolution of the Farallon Plate: from the huge slab width with the Nevada, the Sevier and Laramide orogenies; the Mid-Tertiary ignimbrite flare-up and later left as Juan de Fuca and Cocos plates, the Basin and Range Province under extension, with slab break off, smaller slab width, more edges and mantle return flow.

Some early models of plate tectonics envisioned the plates riding on top of convection cells like conveyor belts. However, most scientists working today believe that the asthenosphere does not directly cause motion by the friction of such basal forces. The North American Plate is nowhere being subducted, yet it is in motion. Likewise the African, Eurasian and Antarctic Plates. Ridge push is thought responsible for the motion of these plates.

The subducting slabs around the Pacific Ring of Fire cool down the Earth and its Core-mantle boundary. Around the African Plate upwelling mantle plumes from the Core-mantle boundary produce rifting including the African and Ethiopian rift valleys.

See also

References

  1. ^ Forsyth, Donald; Uyeda, Seiya (1975-10-01). "On the Relative Importance of the Driving Forces of Plate Motion". Geophysical Journal International. 43 (1): 163–200. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.1975.tb00631.x. ISSN 0956-540X.
  2. ^ Conrad, Clinton P.; Lithgow-Bertelloni, Carolina (2002-10-04). "How Mantle Slabs Drive Plate Tectonics". Science. 298 (5591): 207–209. doi:10.1126/science.1074161. ISSN 0036-8075.
  3. ^ "Plate tectonics, based on 'Geology and the Environment', 5 ed; 'Earth', 9 ed" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 11, 2011.
  4. ^ Conrad CP, Lithgow-Bertelloni C (2004)
  5. ^ Carlson, R. L.; Hilde, T. W. C.; Uyeda, S. (1983). "The driving mechanism of plate tectonics: Relation to age of the lithosphere at trenches". Geophysical Research Letters. 10 (4): 297–300. doi:10.1029/GL010i004p00297.
  6. ^ Lallemand, Serge; Heuret, Arnauld; Boutelier, David (2005). "On the relationships between slab dip, back-arc stress, upper plate absolute motion, and crustal nature in subduction zones: SUBDUCTION ZONE DYNAMICS". Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. 6 (9): n/a–n/a. doi:10.1029/2005GC000917.
  7. ^ McNutt, Marcia K. (1984-12-10). "Lithospheric flexure and thermal anomalies". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 89 (B13): 11180–11194. doi:10.1029/JB089iB13p11180.

Further reading

Cimmeria (continent)

Cimmeria was an ancient continent, or, rather, a string of microcontinents or terranes, that rifted from Gondwana in the Southern Hemisphere and was accreted to Eurasia in the Northern Hemisphere. It consisted of parts of what is today Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Tibet, Shan–Thai, and Malay Peninsula. Cimmeria rifted from the Gondwanan shores of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean during the Carboniferous-earliest Permian and as the Neo-Tethys Ocean opened behind it, during the Permian, the Paleo-Tethys closed in front of it. Cimmeria rifted off Gondwana from east to west, from Australia to the eastern Mediterranean.

It stretched across several latitudes and spanned a wide range of climatic zones.

Convergent boundary

A convergent boundary is an area on Earth where two or more lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other causing a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can be defined by a plane where many earthquakes occur, called the Benioff Zone. These collisions happen on scales of millions to tens of millions of years and can lead to volcanism, earthquakes, orogenesis, destruction of lithosphere, and deformation. Convergent boundaries occur between oceanic-oceanic lithosphere, oceanic-continental lithosphere, and continental-continental lithosphere. The geologic features related to convergent boundaries vary depending on crust types.

Plate tectonics is driven by convection cells in the mantle. Convection cells are the result of heat generated by radioactive decay of elements in the mantle escaping to the surface and the return of cool materials from the surface to the mantle. These convection cells bring hot mantle material to the surface along spreading centers creating new crust. As this new crust is pushed away from the spreading center by the formation of newer crust, it cools, thins, and becomes denser. Subduction initiates when this dense crust converges with the less dense crust. The force of gravity helps drive the subducting slab into the mantle. Evidence supports that the force of gravity will increase plate velocity. As the relatively cool subducting slab sinks deeper into the mantle, it is heated causing dehydration of hydrous minerals. This releases water into the hotter asthenosphere, which leads to partial melting of asthenosphere and volcanism. Both dehydration and partial melting occurs along the 1000 °C isotherm, generally at depths of 65 – 130 km.Some lithospheric plates consist of both continental and oceanic lithosphere. In some instances, initial convergence with another plate will destroy oceanic lithosphere, leading to convergence of two continental plates. Neither continental plate will subduct. It is likely that the plate may break along the boundary of continental and oceanic crust. Seismic tomography reveals pieces of lithosphere that have broken off during convergence.

Eclogitization

Eclogitization is the tectonic process in which the high-pressure, metamorphic facies, eclogite (a very dense rock), is formed. This leads to an increase in the density of regions of Earth's crust, which leads to changes in plate motion at convergent boundaries (where rock sinks beneath other rock).

Geodynamics

Geodynamics is a subfield of geophysics dealing with dynamics of the Earth. It applies physics, chemistry and mathematics to the understanding of how mantle convection leads to plate tectonics and geologic phenomena such as seafloor spreading, mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, faulting and so on. It also attempts to probe the internal activity by measuring magnetic fields, gravity, and seismic waves, as well as the mineralogy of rocks and their isotopic composition. Methods of geodynamics are also applied to exploration of other planets.

Gorda Ridge

The Gorda Ridge (41°36'19.6"N 127°22'03.1"W), a tectonic spreading center, is located roughly 200 kilometres (120 mi) off the northern coast of California and southern Oregon. Running NE – SW it is roughly 300 kilometres (190 mi) in length. The ridge is broken into three segments; the northern ridge, central ridge, and the southern ridge, which contains the Escanaba Trough.

Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary that stretches from the North Island of New Zealand northward. The formation of the Kermadec and Tonga Plates started about 4–5 million years ago. Today, the eastern boundary of the Tonga Plate is one of the fastest subduction zones, with a rate up to 24 cm/yr. The trench formed between the Kermadec-Tonga and Pacific Plates is also home to the second deepest trench in the world, at about 10,800 m, as well as the longest chain of submerged volcanoes.

Mid-ocean ridge

A mid-ocean ridge (MOR) is a seafloor mountain system formed by plate tectonics. It typically has a depth of ~ 2,600 meters (8,500 ft) and rises about two kilometers above the deepest portion of an ocean basin. This feature is where seafloor spreading takes place along a divergent plate boundary. The rate of seafloor spreading determines the morphology of the crest of the mid-ocean ridge and its width in an ocean basin. The production of new seafloor and oceanic lithosphere results from mantle upwelling in response to plate separation. The melt rises as magma at the linear weakness in the oceanic crust, and emerges as lava, creating new crust and lithosphere upon cooling. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a spreading center that bisects the North and South Atlantic basins; hence the origin of the name 'mid-ocean ridge'. Most oceanic spreading centers are not in the middle of their hosting ocean basis but regardless, are called mid-ocean ridges. Mid-ocean ridges around the globe are linked by plate tectonic boundaries and the outline of the ridges across the ocean floor appears similar to the seam of a baseball. The mid-ocean ridge system thus is the longest mountain range on Earth, reaching about 65,000 km (40,000 mi).

Oceanic trench

Oceanic trenches are topographic depressions of the sea floor, relatively narrow in width, but very long. These oceanographic features are the deepest parts of the ocean floor. Oceanic trenches are a distinctive morphological feature of convergent plate boundaries, along which lithospheric plates move towards each other at rates that vary from a few millimeters to over ten centimeters per year. A trench marks the position at which the flexed, subducting slab begins to descend beneath another lithospheric slab. Trenches are generally parallel to a volcanic island arc, and about 200 km (120 mi) from a volcanic arc. Oceanic trenches typically extend 3 to 4 km (1.9 to 2.5 mi) below the level of the surrounding oceanic floor. The greatest ocean depth measured is in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, at a depth of 11,034 m (36,201 ft) below sea level. Oceanic lithosphere moves into trenches at a global rate of about 3 km2/yr.

Plate tectonics

Plate tectonics (from the Late Latin tectonicus, from the Greek: τεκτονικός "pertaining to building") is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth's lithosphere, since tectonic processes began on Earth between 3.3 and 3.5 billion years ago. The model builds on the concept of continental drift, an idea developed during the first decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The lithosphere, which is the rigid outermost shell of a planet (the crust and upper mantle), is broken into tectonic plates. The Earth's lithosphere is composed of seven or eight major plates (depending on how they are defined) and many minor plates. Where the plates meet, their relative motion determines the type of boundary: convergent, divergent, or transform. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries (or faults). The relative movement of the plates typically ranges from zero to 100 mm annually.Tectonic plates are composed of oceanic lithosphere and thicker continental lithosphere, each topped by its own kind of crust. Along convergent boundaries, subduction, or one plate moving under another, carries the lower one down into the mantle; the material lost is roughly balanced by the formation of new (oceanic) crust along divergent margins by seafloor spreading. In this way, the total surface of the lithosphere remains the same. This prediction of plate tectonics is also referred to as the conveyor belt principle. Earlier theories, since disproven, proposed gradual shrinking (contraction) or gradual expansion of the globe.Tectonic plates are able to move because the Earth's lithosphere has greater mechanical strength than the underlying asthenosphere. Lateral density variations in the mantle result in convection; that is, the slow creeping motion of Earth's solid mantle. Plate movement is thought to be driven by a combination of the motion of the seafloor away from spreading ridges due to variations in topography (the ridge is a topographic high) and density changes in the crust (density increases as newly formed crust cools and moves away from the ridge). At subduction zones the relatively cold, dense crust is "pulled" or sinks down into the mantle over the downward convecting limb of a mantle cell. Another explanation lies in the different forces generated by tidal forces of the Sun and Moon. The relative importance of each of these factors and their relationship to each other is unclear, and still the subject of much debate.

Ridge push

Ridge push (also known as gravitational sliding) or sliding plate force is a proposed driving force for plate motion in plate tectonics that occurs at mid-ocean ridges as the result of the rigid lithosphere sliding down the hot, raised asthenosphere below mid-ocean ridges. Although it is called ridge push, the term is somewhat misleading; it is actually a body force that acts throughout an ocean plate, not just at the ridge, as a result of gravitational pull. The name comes from earlier models of plate tectonics in which ridge push was primarily ascribed to upwelling magma at mid-ocean ridges pushing or wedging the plates apart.

Seafloor spreading

Seafloor spreading is a process that occurs at mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed through volcanic activity and then gradually moves away from the ridge.

Slab (geology)

In geology, a slab is the portion of a tectonic plate that is being subducted.Slabs constitute an important part of the global plate tectonic system. They drive plate tectonics – both by pulling along the lithosphere to which they are attached in a processes known as slab pull and by inciting currents in the mantle (slab suction). They cause volcanism due to flux melting of the mantle wedge, and they affect the flow and thermal evolution of the Earth's mantle. Their motion can cause dynamic uplift and subsidence of the Earth's surface, forming shallow seaways and potentially rearranging drainage patterns.Geologists have imaged slabs down to the seismic discontinuities between the upper and lower mantle and to the core–mantle boundary. About 100 slabs have been described at depth, and where and when they subducted. Slab subduction is the mechanism by which lithospheric material is mixed back into the Earth's mantle.

Slab detachment

In plate tectonics, slab detachment or slab break-off may occur during continent-continent or arc-continent collisions. When the continental margin of the subducting plate reaches the oceanic trench of the subduction zone, the more buoyant continental crust will in normal circumstances experience only a limited amount of subduction into the asthenosphere. The slab pull forces will, however, still be present and this normally leads to the breaking off or detachment of the descending slab from the rest of the plate. The isostatic response to the detachment of the downgoing slab is rapid uplift. Slab detachment is also followed by the upwelling of relatively hot asthenosphere to fill the gap created, leading in many cases to magmatism.The uncritical use of the slab-detachment model to explain disparate observations of magmatism, uplift and exhumation in continental collision zones has been criticised.

Slab suction

Slab suction forces are one of the major plate tectonic driving forces. Slab suction occurs when a subducting slab drives flow in the nearby mantle. This flow then exerts shear tractions on nearby plates. This driving force is important when the slabs (or portions thereof) are not strongly attached to the rest of their respective tectonic plate. They cause both the subducting and overriding plate to move in the direction of the subduction zone. Slab suction is the weakest of the three major forces involved in plate motion, the others being slab pull, the strongest, and ridge push.

Ultra-high-pressure metamorphism

Ultra-high-pressure metamorphism refers to metamorphic processes at pressures high enough to stabilize coesite, the high-pressure polymorph of SiO2. It is important because the processes that form and exhume ultra-high-pressure (UHP) metamorphic rocks may strongly affect plate tectonics, the composition and evolution of Earth's crust. The discovery of UHP metamorphic rocks in 1984 revolutionized our understanding of plate tectonics. Prior to 1984 there was little suspicion that continental rocks could reach such high pressures.

The formation of many UHP terrains has been attributed to the subduction of microcontinents or continental margins and the exhumation of all UHP terrains has been ascribed principally to buoyancy caused by the low density of continental crust—even at UHP—relative to Earth's mantle. While the subduction proceeds at low thermal gradients of less than 10°C/km, the exhumation proceeds at elevated thermal gradients of 10-30°C/km.

Undersea mountain range

Undersea mountain ranges are mountain ranges that are mostly or entirely underwater, and specifically under the surface of an ocean. If originated from current tectonic forces, they are often referred to as a mid-ocean ridge. In contrast, if formed by past above-water volcanism, they are known as a seamount chain. The largest and best known undersea mountain range is a mid-ocean ridge, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has been observed that, "similar to those on land, the undersea mountain ranges are the loci of frequent volcanic and earthquake activity".

Volcanic passive margin

Volcanic passive margins (VPM) and non-volcanic passive margins are the two forms of transitional crust that lie beneath passive continental margins that occur on Earth as the result of the formation of ocean basins via continental rifting. Initiation of igneous processes associated with volcanic passive margins occurs before and/or during the rifting process depending on the cause of rifting. There are two accepted models for VPM formation: hotspots/mantle plumes and slab pull. Both result in large, quick lava flows over a relatively short period of geologic time (i.e. a couple of million years). VPM's progress further as cooling and subsidence begins as the margins give way to formation of normal oceanic crust from the widening rifts.

Wave base

The wave base, in physical oceanography, is the maximum depth at which a water wave's passage causes significant water motion. For water depths deeper than the wave base, bottom sediments and the seafloor are no longer stirred by the wave motion above.

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