EGU24-17823, updated on 11 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Influence of the fluid pressure ratio on accretionary wedge evolution over long timescales

Derek Neuharth1, Whitney Behr1, Adam Holt2, and Jonas Ruh3
Derek Neuharth et al.
  • 1ETH Zurich, Geological institute, Structural geology and tectonics, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Rosenstiel School of Marine,Atmospheric, and Earth Science, University of Miami, Miami, USA
  • 3Institute of Marine Sciences, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain

Accretionary wedges are regions of off-scraped and underplated sediment and oceanic crustal materials formed along subduction zones. Many modeling studies investigate accretionary wedge mechanics on a crustal scale, or on a larger scale using kinematic boundary conditions. However, in fully dynamic systems subduction velocity can change through time in response to variations in large-scale subduction dynamics (e.g., as the slab travels rapidly through the upper mantle vs. slower sinking through the transition zone). How this time-dependence affects an evolving accretionary wedge and subduction interface properties, and the resulting effect on subduction speeds, is not well understood.

To understand how accretionary wedges evolve during different stages of subduction, we develop fully dynamic 2D subduction models using the finite element code ASPECT. The visco-plastic model setup consists of a dense subducting plate and a buoyant overriding plate coupled with a 6-km thick wet quartzite sediment interface. A fluid pressure ratio profile is prescribed within the sediment that varies from 0.4 at the surface to 0.9 at depths greater than 4-km. Between 50 to 100 km depth, the fluid pressure ratio is linearly tapered from 0.9 to 0. We run models for 30 Myr where we vary 1) the initial sediment thickness, 2) frictional strength, and 3) the depth needed to reach the maximum fluid pressure ratio. We explore how these parameters affect the thickness of the accretionary wedge, the amount of sediment that enters the subduction channel, and the resulting subduction speed.

Preliminary results suggest that an accretionary wedge will initially frontally accrete as the wedge thickens. Over time, the faults forming these slivers are rotated towards vertical and moved towards the subduction zone along a basal decollement. Eventually, a second decollement forms along the overriding plate interface and links to the first decollement through backthrust faulting, creating a series of accretionary wedge blocks that are underthrust into the subduction interface. Increasing the depth to the maximum fluid pressure ratio leads to a larger accretionary wedge, and a deeper basal decollement. A deeper decollement results in greater sediment underplating due to the backthrust faulting, resulting in more sediment within the subduction interface.

How to cite: Neuharth, D., Behr, W., Holt, A., and Ruh, J.: Influence of the fluid pressure ratio on accretionary wedge evolution over long timescales, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-17823,, 2024.