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The dynamics of plate tectonics and mantle flow: from local to global scales.

Authors
  • 1
  • 1 Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Science
1095-9203
Publisher
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Publication Date
Volume
329
Issue
5995
Pages
1033–1038
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191223
PMID: 20798311
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Plate tectonics is regulated by driving and resisting forces concentrated at plate boundaries, but observationally constrained high-resolution models of global mantle flow remain a computational challenge. We capitalized on advances in adaptive mesh refinement algorithms on parallel computers to simulate global mantle flow by incorporating plate motions, with individual plate margins resolved down to a scale of 1 kilometer. Back-arc extension and slab rollback are emergent consequences of slab descent in the upper mantle. Cold thermal anomalies within the lower mantle couple into oceanic plates through narrow high-viscosity slabs, altering the velocity of oceanic plates. Viscous dissipation within the bending lithosphere at trenches amounts to approximately 5 to 20% of the total dissipation through the entire lithosphere and mantle.

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