EGU24-14820, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Subduction dynamics and overriding plate deformation

Wouter P. Schellart
Wouter P. Schellart
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Science, Department of Earth Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands (

Many subduction zones on Earth experience active overriding plate deformation. Most experience extension, resulting in the formation of a backarc basin (e.g. East Scotia Sea, North Fiji Basin, Aegean Sea), while some experience shortening, resulting in a massive cordilleran mountain range (e.g. Andes). It is unclear why some overriding plates experience shortening and others extension, and why extension occurs more frequently than shortening. Numerical geodynamic simulations of subduction are presented investigating the control of slab width and subduction depth on overriding plate deformation. The numerical models demonstrate that shortening only occurs at very wide subduction zones that have subducted into the lower mantle, while overriding plate extension occurs more frequently, taking place both for narrow and intermediate size subduction zones throughout their evolution, and for wide subduction zones in the early (upper mantle) stage of their evolution as well as near their lateral slab edges during the middle stage of their evolution. The model results are compared with a global dataset of all active subduction zones on Earth (about 51,600 km of subduction zones), providing an explanation for the present-day deformation style at these subduction zones. In particular, the comparison between models and the global dataset provides an explanation for the more frequent occurrence of extension in the overriding plate compared to shortening.

How to cite: Schellart, W. P.: Subduction dynamics and overriding plate deformation, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-14820,, 2024.