Segments of flat subduction are recognized in subduction zones, but little is known about the behavior of slabs along the edges of flat slab segments. Well-constrained earthquake data from the northern edge of the Peru flat slab segment reveal that the subducting Nazca slab is more contorted than previously assumed, with a prominent tear developed along a lateral ramp that bounds the Peruvian flat slab beneath southern Ecuador. The slab geometry and associated tear are spatially linked to Sumaco volcano ∼100 km east of the arc front. Sumaco mafic lavas are ultrapotassic, enriched in incompatible elements, and show little evidence for crustal assimilation. These geochemical signatures are consistent with low-degree (≤3%) melting of an upper mantle source comprising depleted mid-oceanic ridge basalt (MORB) mantle within the spinel stability field, and metasomatism of the source by melts derived from the basaltic portion of the slab within the garnet stability field (>80 km depth). We propose that focused melting at the slab edge was enabled by the combination of tearing and the generation of poloidal mantle flow in the proximity of the tear. A possible explanation for this process is the opening of a trapdoor-style tear, which induced a poloidal mantle flow by the gravitational foundering of the relatively old and dense edge of the flat slab segment.
Research Article|November 09, 2018
A trapdoor mechanism for slab tearing and melt generation in the northern Andes
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Gideon Rosenbaum, Mike Sandiford, John Caulfield, Jennifer M. Garrison; A trapdoor mechanism for slab tearing and melt generation in the northern Andes. Geology doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G45429.1
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