Browsing by Subject "PLATE CONVERGENCE"

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  • Schütt, Jorina Marlena; Whipp, David Michael (2020)
    Strain partitioning onto margin-parallel thrust and strike-slip faults is a common process at obliquely convergent plate margins, leading to the formation and migration of crustal slivers. The degree of strain partitioning and rate of sliver migration can be linked to several factors including the angle of convergence obliquity, the dip angle of subduction, frictional coupling between the plates and the strength of the upper plate, among others. Although these factors are known to be important, their relative influence on strain partitioning is unclear, particularly at natural margins where the factors often vary along strike. Here we use a 3-D mechanical finite-element model to investigate the relationship between continental crustal strength, the convergence obliquity angle, the subduction angle, and strain partitioning in the Northern Volcanic Zone (NVZ) of the Andes (5 degrees N-3 degrees S). In the NVZ the subduction dip and obliquity angles both vary along strike, weaknesses in the continental crust may be present in suture zones or regions of arc volcanism, and strain partitioning is only observed in some regions. Thus, it is an ideal location to gain insight in which of the factors have the largest influence on deformation and sliver formation in the upper plate. Our numerical experiments confirm that a moderately high obliquity angle is needed for partitioning and that a continental crustal weakness is also required for movement of a coherent continental sliver at rates similar to geodetic observations from the NVZ. In contrast, the subduction dip angle is only of secondary importance in controlling strain partitioning behavior. Key Points Factors influencing formation of continental slivers investigated using 3-D numerical models of finite-width oblique subduction systems Model results indicate that convergence obliquity and the presence of weak zones in the upper plate are key to formation of well-defined slivers Model predictions are in good agreement with geodetic observations of sliver motion in the Northern Volcanic Zone of the Andes