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Authors: Ficini, Eleonora* 
Cuffaro, Marco* 
Doglioni, Carlo* 
Title: Asymmetric dynamics at subduction zones derived from plate kinematic constraints
Journal: Gondwana Research 
Series/Report no.: /78 (2020)
Issue Date: 2020
DOI: 10.1016/
Keywords: Subduction zones
Subduction rate Recycling of the lithosphere into the mantle
Subject ClassificationGeodynamics
Abstract: The lithospheric sinking along subduction zones is part of the mantle convection. Therefore, computing the volume of lithosphere recycled within the mantle by subducting slabs quantifies the equivalent amount of mantle that should be displaced, for the mass conservation criterion. The rate of subduction is constrained by the convergence rate between upper and lower plates and the motion of the subduction hinge H that may either converge or diverge relative to the upper plate. Here, starting from the analysis of the slab hinge kinematics, we evaluate the subduction rate at 31 subduction zones worldwide, useful to compute volumes of sinking lithosphere into the mantle. Our results show that ~190 km3/yr and ~88 km3/yr of lithospheric slabs are currently subducting below H-divergent and H-convergent subduction zones, respectively. We also propose supporting numerical models providing asymmetric volumes of the subducted lithosphere, using the subduction rate instead of plate convergence, as boundary condition. Furthermore, H-divergent subduction zones appear to be coincident with subductions having “westward”-directed slabs, whereas H-convergent subduction zones are mostly compatible with those that have “eastward-to-northeastward”-directed slabs. On the basis of this geographical polarity, our lithospheric volume estimation gives ~214 km3/yr and ~88 km3/yr of subducting lithosphere, respectively. This entails that W-directed subduction zones contribute more than twice in lithospheric sinking into the mantle with respect to E-to-NE-directed ones. In accordance with the conservation of mass principle, this volumetric asymmetry in the mantle suggests a displacement of ~120 km3/yr of mantle material from west to east, providing a constraint for global asymmetric mantle convection.
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