Contrasted East Asia and South America tectonics driven by deep mantle flow

Ting Yang, Louis Moresi, Michael Gurnis, Shaofeng Liu, Dan Sandiford, Simon Williams, Fabio A. Capitanio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


East Asia and South America have both experienced long-term subduction since at least the Jurassic, but they have had contrasting tectonic evolutions since the Late Cretaceous. East Asia was dominated by extensional tectonics with many marginal sea basins forming during the Cenozoic while South America was dominated by compressional tectonics building the Andean mountains. The mechanism controlling this contrast in tectonic style on opposite sides of the Pacific has been unclear. We suggest that the deep mantle flow revealed by seismic tomography, plate reconstructions, and geodynamic models contributed to the pan-Pacific tectonic disparity. Our geodynamic models suggest that the Atlantic Ocean opening plays an important role in promoting compression-dominated tectonics and Andean building along the South American margin by allowing fast trench-ward motion of South America. On the other hand, the long-standing downwelling flow beneath the interior of Asia since Asian assembly in the Paleozoic and the early Mesozoic helps to inhibit Atlantic-type ocean opening in Asia and restrain trench-ward motion of East Asia, promoting extension-dominated tectonics along the Asian margin. The restrained trench-ward motion suggests a low probability of flat-slab subduction occurrence in East Asia during the late Mesozoic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Andean orogeny
  • deep mantle flow
  • East Asian tectonics
  • marginal sea
  • slab subduction
  • South American tectonics

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