Maxwell Rudolph

Date of Award

Summer 9-7-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 78 pages)


Cascadia Subduction Zone, Earth (Planet) -- Mantle, Earth (Planet) -- Crust, Subduction zones -- Northwest Coast of North America -- Case studies




Arc magmatism is sustained by the complex interactions between the subducting slab, the overriding plate, and the mantle wedge. Partial melting of mantle peridotite is achieved by fluid-induced flux melting and decompression melting due to upward flow. The distribution of melting is sensitive to temperature, the pattern of flow, and the pressure in the mantle wedge. The arc front is the surface manifestation of partial melting in the mantle wedge and is characterized by a narrow chain of active volcanoes that migrate in time. The conventional interpretation is that changes in slab dip angle lead to changes in the arc front position relative to the trench. We explore an alternative hypothesis: evolution of the overlying plate, specifically thickening of the arc root, causes arc front migration. We investigate the effects of varying crustal morphology and viscous decoupling of the shallow slab-mantle interface on melt production using 2D numerical models involving a stationary overriding plate, a subducting plate with prescribed motion, and a dynamic mantle wedge. Melt production is quantified using a hydrous melting parameterization. We conclude: 1) Localized lithospheric thickening shifts the locus of melt production trenchward while thinning shifts melting landward. 2) Inclined LAB topography modulates the asthenospheric flow field, producing a narrow, well-defined arc front. 3) Thickening of the overriding plate exerts increased torque on the slab, favoring shallowing of the dip angle. 4) Viscous decoupling produces a cold, stagnant forearc mantle but promotes arc front melting due to reduction in the radius of corner flow, leading to higher temperatures at the coupling/decoupling transition.

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