Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-135
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-135

  04 Nov 2021

04 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

The topographic signature of temperature controlled rheological transitions in an accretionary prism

Sepideh Pajang1,2, Laetitia Le Pourhiet1, and Nadaya Cubas1 Sepideh Pajang et al.
  • 1Institut des Sciences de la Terre Paris, ISTeP UMR 7193, Sorbonne Universite, CNRS-INSU, 75005 Paris, France
  • 2Geoscience department, University of Birjand, Birjand, Iran

Abstract. The local topographic slope of the accretionary prism is often used together with the critical taper theory to determine the effective friction on subduction megathrust. In this context, extremely small topographic slopes associated with extremely low effective basal friction (μ ≤ 0.05) can be interpreted either as seismically locked portions of megathrust, which deforms episodically at dynamic slip rates or as a viscously creeping décollement. Existing mechanical models of the long-term evolution of accretionary prism, sandbox models, and numerical simulations alike, generally do not account for heat conservation nor for temperature dependant rheological transitions. Here, we solve for advection-diffusion of heat with imposed constant heat flow at the base of the model domain. This allows the temperature to increase with burial, and therefore to capture how the brittle-ductile transition and dehydration reactions within the décollement affect the dynamic of the accretionary prism and its topography. We investigate the effect of basal heat flow, shear heating, thermal blanketing by sediments, the thickness of the incoming sediments. We find that while reduction of the friction during dewatering reactions result as expected in a flat segment often in the fore-arc, the brittle-ductile transition result unexpectedly in a local increase of topographic slope. We show that this counter-intuitive backproduct of the numerical simulation can be explained and by the onset of internal ductile deformation in between the active thrusts. Our models, therefore, implies significant viscous deformation of sediments above a brittle décollement, at geological rates, and we discuss its consequences in term of interpretation of coupling ratios at subduction megathrust. We also find that, with increasing burial and ductile deformation, the internal brittle deformation tends to be accommodated by backthrusts until the basal temperature becomes sufficient to form a viscous channel, parallel to the décollement, which serves as root to a major splay fault and its back-thrust and delimits a region with small topographic slope. Morphologic resemblances of the brittle-ductile and ductile segments with fore-arc high and fore-arc basins of accretionary active margins respectively allow us to propose an alternative metamorphic origin of the fore-arc crust in this context.

Sepideh Pajang et al.

Status: open (until 16 Dec 2021)

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Sepideh Pajang et al.

Sepideh Pajang et al.

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Short summary
The local topographic slope of an accretionary prism is often used to determine the effective friction on subduction megathrust. We investigate how the brittle-ductile and the smectite-illite transitions affect the topographic slope of an accretionary prism and its internal deformation to provide clues to determine the origin of observed low topographic slopes in subduction zones. We finally discuss their implications in terms of the fore-arc basin and fore-arc high genesis and nature.