Reconciling subduction dynamics during Tethys closure with large-scale Asian tectonics: insights from numerical modeling

F A Capitanio, A Replumaz, N Riel

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We use three-dimensional numerical models to investigate the relation between subduction dynamics and large-scale tectonics of continent interiors. The models show how the balance between forces at the plate margins such as subduction, ridge push, and far-field forces, controls the coupled plate margins and interiors evolution. Removal of part of the slab by lithospheric break-off during subduction destabilizes the convergent margin, forcing migration of the subduction zone, whereas in the upper plate large-scale lateral extrusion, rotations, and back-arc stretching ensue. When external forces are modeled, such as ridge push and far-field forces, indentation increases, with large collisional margin advance and thickening in the upper plate. The balance between margin and external forces leads to similar convergent margin evolutions, whereas major differences occur in the upper plate interiors. Here, three strain regimes are found: large-scale extrusion, extrusion and thickening along the collisional margin, and thickening only, when negligible far-field forces, ridge push, and larger far-field forces, respectively, add to the subduction dynamics. The extrusion tectonics develops a strong asymmetry toward the oceanic margin driven by large-scale subduction, with no need of preexisting heterogeneities in the upper plate. Because the slab break-off perturbation is transient, the ensuing plate tectonics is time-dependent. The modeled deformation and its evolution are remarkably similar to the Cenozoic Asian tectonics, explaining large-scale lithospheric faulting and thickening, and coupling of indentation, extrusion and extension along the Asian convergent margin as a result of large-scale subduction process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-982
Number of pages21
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Asian tectonics
  • extrusion
  • indentation
  • subduction

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