Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Research article
 | Highlight paper
08 Jan 2020
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 08 Jan 2020

Can subduction initiation at a transform fault be spontaneous?

Diane Arcay, Serge Lallemand, Sarah Abecassis, and Fanny Garel

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Subject area: Tectonic plate interactions, magma genesis, and lithosphere deformation at all scales | Editorial team: Structural geology and tectonics, paleoseismology, rock physics, experimental deformation | Discipline: Tectonics
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Cited articles

Abecassis, S., Arcay, D., and Lallemand, S.: Subduction initiation at fracture zones: conditions and various modes, in: abstracts of the GeoMod conference, 17–20 October, p. 14, La Grande Motte, France, available at: (last access: 20 December 2019), 2016. a, b
Adam, C., King, S., Vidal, V., Rabinowicz, M., Jalobeanu, A., and Yoshida, M.: Variation of the subsidence parameters, effective thermal conductivity, and mantle dynamics, Earth Planet. Sc. Lett., 426, 130–142, 2015. a
Afonso, J. C., Zlotnik, S., and Fernandez, M.: Effects of compositional and rheological stratifications on small-scale convection under the oceans: Implications for the thickness of oceanic lithosphere and seafloor flattening, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L20308,, 2008. a
Arcay, D.: Dynamics of interplate domain in subduction zones: influence of rheological parameters and subducting plate age, Solid Earth, 3, 467–488,, 2012. a
Arcay, D.: Modelling the interplate domain in thermo-mechanical simulations of subduction: Critical effects of resolution and rheology, and consequences on wet mantle melting, Phys. Earth Planet. Inter., 269, 112–132,, 2017. a, b
Short summary
We propose a new exploration of the concept of spontaneous lithospheric collapse at a transform fault (TF) by performing a large study of conditions allowing instability of the thicker plate using 2-D thermomechanical simulations. Spontaneous subduction is modelled only if extreme mechanical conditions are assumed. We conclude that spontaneous collapse of the thick older plate at a TF evolving into mature subduction is an unlikely process of subduction initiation at modern Earth conditions.