Abstract

We present the results of dynamic modeling of the western Mediterranean that accounts for observed global positioning system (GPS) surface deformation of the Alboran Sea and surrounding Rif and Betic Mountains as the result of the combined effects of relative motion of the Eurasian and Nubian plates, low strength in the Alboran Sea region and sub-lithospheric processes occurring beneath the External Rif domain. Assuming that the lithosphere behaves elastically over the short time period of the GPS observations, an elastic plate model is considered in our study, including an area of weak lithosphere (factor of 10) centered on the Alboran Sea and in which lateral boundary conditions consist of the Nubia-Eurasia oblique convergence. Sub-crustal processes are modeled by application of a horizontal traction on a small area (patch) at the base of the elastic plate. Our modeling studies demonstrate the need for sub-crustal or sub-lithospheric, southwestward-directed forcing to account for observed southwestward motion of the Rif and Betic domains. Based on the location, orientation, and small area of the traction patch, we hypothesize that forcing is associated with delamination and rollback of the subducted African continental lithospheric mantle beneath the External Rif zone, due to the pull of the oceanic part of the Western Mediterranean slab, a dynamic process that may be similar to that where the over-riding plate is driven toward the subduction zone during slab rollback.

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