Modeling Slab-Slab Interactions: Dynamics of Outward Dipping Double-Sided Subduction Systems

Ágnes Király, Adam F. Holt, Francesca Funiciello, Claudio Faccenna, Fabio A. Capitanio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Slab-slab interaction is a characteristic feature of tectonically complex areas. Outward dipping double-sided subduction is one of these complex cases, which has several examples on Earth, most notably the Molucca Sea and Adriatic Sea. This study focuses on developing a framework for linking plate kinematics and slab interactions in an outward dipping subduction geometry. We used analog and numerical models to better understand the underlying subduction dynamics. Compared to a single subduction model, double-sided subduction exhibits more time-dependent and vigorous toroidal flow cells that are elongated (i.e., not circular). Because both the Molucca and Adriatic Sea exhibit an asymmetric subduction configuration, we also examine the role that asymmetry plays in the dynamics of outward dipping double-sided subduction. We introduce asymmetry in two ways; with variable initial depths for the two slabs (“geometric” asymmetry), and with variable buoyancy within the subducting plate (“mechanical” asymmetry). Relative to the symmetric case, we probe how asymmetry affects the overall slab kinematics, whether asymmetric behavior intensifies or equilibrates as subduction proceeds. While initial geometric asymmetry disappears once the slabs are anchored to the 660 km discontinuity, the mechanical asymmetry can cause more permanent differences between the two subduction zones. In the most extreme case, the partly continental slab stops subducting due to the unequal slab pull force. The results show that the slab-slab interaction is most effective when the two trenches are closer than 10–8 cm in the laboratory, which is 600–480 km when scaled to the Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-714
Number of pages22
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • analog and numerical modeling
  • double-sided subduction
  • slab-slab interaction
  • subduction induced mantle flow

Cite this