Global compilation of variations in slab depth beneath arc volcanoes and implications

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Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems
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May 23
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[ 1] The location and motion of subducting plates relative to volcanic arcs provide a first-order constraint on theories of arc magmagenesis. We compile volcano-specific subduction parameters for 33,000 km of the global arc system at 839 volcanic centers, measuring the depth to the top of the slab ( H) beneath each volcano. The compilation also includes estimates of slab strike and dip, incoming plate velocity, and age, all available in accompanying auxiliary material. The slab geometry is contoured from the top surface of Wadati-Benioff zones ( WBZs) for a variety of teleseismic and local seismicity catalogs, which provides a reference surface for evaluating the distribution of seismicity within subducting plates. The WBZ thickness exceeds that expected from hypocentral errors in a manner correlating with plate age, indicating that old plates have thicker regions in which earthquakes can occur. When averaged over 500-km-long arc segments, H ranges from 72 to 173 km with a global average of 105 km, increasing by 20 km when hypocentral error effects are taken into account. These depths correlate poorly with most subduction parameters, but significant correlations exist between H and slab dip ( correlation coefficient is 0.54 for 45 arc segments). The dip correlation can be explained if the melting region is displaced from the Wadati-Benioff zone by a constant-thickness boundary layer. For the north Pacific, H varies inversely with descent rate; this trend may reflect the manner in which wedge thermal structure affects arc location. Over short distances some arc segments exhibit abrupt variations in arc location but not slab geometry, indicating that upper-plate tectonic processes also exert control on H. These along-strike trends in H also correlate with geochemical proxies for the degree of melting, at least in one test case. Thus slab geometry and kinematics provide an important control on the melting that produces arc volcanoes.


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Doi 10.1029/2005gc001045