Thermal Control on the Location of the Volcanic Arc at Subduction Zones

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Ha, Goeun
Montesi, Laurent G.J.
Zhu, Wenlu
At subduction zones, where oceanic plates are recycled into the Earth’s interior, water released by the subducting plate initiates partial melts that form volcanic arcs. Partial melts can be present in a broad melting zone below a narrow volcanic arc. The second melting zone can be formed by mantle upwelling induced by active extension behind the arc and subsequent decompression melting. In this dissertation, I explain the locations of the arc in global using a temperature-dependent melt focusing mechanism. I present a simple geometrical model to explain the observed correlation between the location of the arc and the back-arc spreading center (BASC) at five subduction zones. Lastly, I discuss the thermal influence of the BASC on the arc location. The melts rise vertically through the pore spaces in the mantle rock until they encounter a low permeability barrier formed at a temperature where the crystallization rate is maximum. As the melt trajectory is deflected laterally, the melts are focused at the apex of the permeability barrier and the volcano is more likely to form immediately above the magma pool. In the subduction zones without back-arc spreading, the projection of the apex of the barrier-forming isotherm shows good agreement with the observed arc locations. The arc and the BASC location are negatively correlated with the slab dip at five subduction zones. The decoupling depth between the slab and the overlying mantle defines the closest approach of the nose of the isotherm. The horizontal distance from the trench to the decoupling depth is controlled by the slab dip, which produces the negative correlation. The back-arc extension is related to the trench retreat and the slab anchoring at 660 km discontinuity, which results in a decrease in the slab dip. The relation between the slab anchoring depth and the slab dip generates the observed negative correlation. When the BASC develops near the trench, the thermal structure is disrupted by the mantle upwelling and thereby the predicted arc location moves toward the spreading center.