Early magnetic studies of the Japan Trench showed that seafloor spreading magnetic anomalies progressively fade away and disappear during subduction, reflecting the increasing distance to magnetized sources and the removal of their remanent magnetization with alteration and increasing temperature. An improved magnetic anomaly map derived from both scalar and vector magnetic anomaly data, coupled with a better knowledge of the slab geometry in one hand, of the magnetic structure of the oceanic crust on the other hand, allow us to constrain the thermal structure of the subducting slab. We, for the first time, identify two steps in the anomaly disappearance: first the magnetization of extrusive basalt is rapidly erased between 9 and 12 km, where titanomagnetite reaches its blocking temperature between 150 °C and 350 °C, then the magnetization of deeper crustal layers slowly decreases down to ~20 km, reflecting the progressive slab heating toward the Curie temperature of magnetite, 580 °C. The resulting slab temperatures are higher than predicted by most thermal models. Recent observations and models suggest rejuvenated hydrothermal activity triggered by lithospheric flexure before subduction that may significantly heat up the subducting oceanic crust through thermal blanketing and possibly serpentinization, with consequences on the depth of the seismogenic zone.

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