Subduction thermal regime, petrological metamorphism and seismicity under the Mariana arc
Published in Earth & Environment

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Because of the steep subduction of a highly concave slab, researchers have characterized megathrusts under the Marianas as among the coldest and curviest plate coupling interfaces in various circum-Pacific subduction zones. Seismic tomography indicates that the heterogeneous underlying plate varies markedly in its subduction angle, velocity, and flexure along the strike and dip, while their effects on the thermal structure and intraslab earthquake occurrence remain enigmatic.

By incorporating the 3-D MORVEL velocity and state-of-the-art slab geometry into thermomechanical modeling, we estimated the 3-D subduction thermal state and hydrothermal regime below the Marianas. We find that (1) the concave slab geometry and the complexity of the intraslab velocity variation in the Marianas are associated with a heterogeneous along-strike thermal regime and a cold mantle wedge beneath the central Marianas; (2) amphibolitization and eclogitization of subducted oceanic crust cause variations in fluid pressure and fluid release from the subduction interface, which may influence the distribution of interface seismicity in the Mariana system; (3) the concentration of active hydrothermal vents in the trench >8 km deep is accompanied by a large temperature gradient and subsequent remarkable slab dehydration in the southern Marianas; and (4) slab dehydration (>0.02 wt%/km) from 30-80 km indicates notable fluid release and potential fluid migration in subduction channels, which may correspond to the large water flux at depth beneath the Marianas.

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