Movies for: A Visual Survey of Global Slab Geometries with ShowEarthModel and Implications for a Three-dimensional Subduction Paradigm
Yikilmaz, M. Burak
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Increasing volumes of digital data, combined with advances in visualization, now allow for a new three-dimensional (3D) conceptualization of modern subduction systems. Here we present sixteen movies of visual exploration sessions with the ShowEarthModel program that interrogate modern slab morphologies on Earth. These movies provide a snapshot into the four-dimensional evolution of plate tectonics, by showing a series of virtual voyages through the Earth's interior. Examining the modern subduction system in an interactive 3D framework provides an improved conceptualization of the 3D morphology of slabs. The movies demonstrate that unlike the modern mid-ocean ridge system, modern subduction systems are laterally discontinuous features, making lateral slab edges prevalent. The 3D visualizations, in particular, elucidate the manner in which slabs intersects and overlap, a process that occurs in at least six of the Earth's major subduction zones. The observed variability within a given subduction zone as well as the physical presence of intersecting slabs suggests slab gaps and slab windows are common. The 3D rendering shows relative differences in the radius of curvature for arcuate slabs, as well as the variability in dip within a given subduction zone. Addressing the complex geometries of subducted lithosphere in this way can place constraints on outstanding questions of subduction dynamics including slab strength, mantle rheology, mantle flow rates, and plate-asthenosphere coupling. By conceptualizing the modern subduction system on Earth in 3D space, this paper contributes to the paradigm shift from a two-dimensional (2D) to 3D framework for interpreting the subduction process.