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SUN Weidong, ZHANG Lipeng, LIAO Renqiang, SUN Saijun, LI Congying, LIU He. Plate convergence in the Indo-Pacific region[J]. Journal of Oceanology and Limnology, 2020, 38(4): 1008-1017

Plate convergence in the Indo-Pacific region

SUN Weidong1,2,3, ZHANG Lipeng1,2, LIAO Renqiang1,3, SUN Saijun1,2, LI Congying1,2, LIU He1,2
1 Center of Deep Sea Research, Institute of Oceanology, Center for Ocean Mega-Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao 266071, China;
2 Laboratory for Marine Mineral Resources, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao 266237, China;
3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
The Indo-Pacific convergence region is the best target to solve the two remaining challenges of the plate tectonics theory, i.e., subduction initiation and the driving force of plate tectonics. Recent studies proposed that the Izu-Bonin subduction initiation belongs to spontaneous initiation, which implies that it started from extension, followed by low angle subduction. Numerical geodynamic modeling suggests that the initiation of plate subduction likely occurred along a transform fault, which put the young spreading ridge in direct contact with old oceanic crust. This, however, does not explain the simultaneous subduction initiation in the west Pacific region in the Cenozoic. Namely, the subduction initiations in the Izu-BoninMariana, the Aleutian, and the Tonga-Kermadec trenches are associated with oceanic crusts of different ages, yet they occurred at roughly the same time, suggesting that they were all triggered by a major change in the Pacific plate. Moreover, low angle subduction induces compression rather than extension, which requires external compression forces. Given that the famous Hawaiian-Emperor bending occurred roughly at the same time with the onset of westward subductions in the west Pacific, we propose that these Cenozoic subductions were initiated by the steering of the Pacific plate, which are classified as induced initiation. Induced subduction initiation usually occurs in young ocean basins, forming single-track subduction. The closures of Neo-Tethys Oceans were likely triggered by plumes in the south, forming northward subductions. Interestingly, the Indian plate kept on moving northward more than 50 Ma after the collision between the Indian and Eurasian continents and the break-off of the subducted oceanic slab attached to it. This strongly suggests that slab pull is not the main driving force of plate tectonics, whereas slab sliding is.
Key words:    plate tectonics|subduction initiation|drifting history|Pacific plate|Indian plate|slab sliding   
Received: 2020-04-03   Revised:
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