Caroline Eakin, ANU
The Earth's biggest earthquakes and most explosive volcanoes occur at subduction zones" where a tectonic plate (the seafloor itself) sinks bank into the Earth's interior.
"Subduction zones are a vital ingredient for plate tectonics, and thus for maintaining a habitable planet, but how they originate is one of the biggest unsolved puzzles in modern Earth Science."
We've been able to compile 100 million years of existing evidence for Subduction Zone Initiation (SZI). One of the biggest things this showed was that subduction breeds subduction. Truly spontaneous subduction in "pristine" places is practically unheard of.
The research - led by the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics at the University of Olso - was undertaken by a team of 14 early-career researchers from around the world.
It has resulted in a new database on Subduction Zone Initiation, which is now also open for community input.
By looking at multiple events, we found SZI clustering around two time periods: 6 to 16 million years ago and 40 to 55 million years ago. The study has been published in Nature Communications.
ANU researchers will be deploying ocean-bottom seismometers around Macquarie Island, a location chosen due to its potential for future Subduction Zone Initiation. Updates from the team will be available live from the Southern Ocean:
Crameri, Fabio, Valentina Magni, Mathew Domeier, Grace E. Shephard, Kiran Chotalia, George Cooper, Caroline M. Eakin, et al. “A Transdisciplinary and Community-Driven Database to Unravel Subduction Zone Initiation.” Nature Communications 11, no. 1 (July 27, 2020): 3750. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17522-9.