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Tectonics and seismicity in the Northern Apennines driven by slab retreat and lithospheric delamination

D'Acquisto, M. and Dal Zilio, L. and Molinari, I. and Kissling, E. and Gerya, T. and van Dinther, Y. (2020) Tectonics and seismicity in the Northern Apennines driven by slab retreat and lithospheric delamination. Tectonophysics, 789 . Art. No. 228481. ISSN 0040-1951.

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Understanding how long-term subduction dynamics relates to the short-term seismicity and crustal tec tonics is a challenging but crucial topic in seismotectonics. We attempt to address this issue by linking long-term geodynamic evolution with short-term seismogenic deformation in the Northern Apennines. This retreating subduction orogen displays tectonic and seismogenic behaviors on various spatiotemporal scales that also characterize other subduction zones in the Mediterranean area. We use visco-elasto-plastic seismo-thermo-mechanical (STM) modeling with a realistic 2D setup based on available geological and geophysical data. The subduction dynamics and seismicity are coupled in the numerical modeling, and driven only by buoyancy forces, i.e., slab pull. Our results suggest that lower crustal rheology and lithospheric mantle temperature modulate the crustal tectonics of the Northern Apennines, as inferred by previous studies. The observed spatial distribution of upper crustal tectonic regimes and surface displacements requires buoyant, highly ductile material in the subduction channel beneath the internal part of the orogen. This allows protrusion of the asthenosphere in the lower crust and lithospheric delamination associated with slab retreat. The resulting surface velocities and principal stress axes generally agree with present-day observations, suggesting that slab delamination and retreat can explain the dynamics of the orogen. Our simulations successfully reproduce the type and overall distribution of seismicity with thrust faulting events in the external part of the orogen and normal faulting in its internal part. Slab temperatures and lithospheric mantle stiffness affect the cumulative seismic moment release and spatial distribution of upper crustal earthquakes. The properties of deep, sub-crustal material are thus shown to influence upper crustal seismicity in an orogen driven by slab retreat, even though the upper crust is largely decoupled from the lithospheric mantle. Our simulations therefore highlight the effect of deep lower crustal rheologies, self-driven subduction dynamics and mantle properties in controlling shallow deformation and seismicity.

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D'Acquisto, M.0000-0001-6321-1954
Additional Information:© 2020 Published by Elsevier B.V. Received 10 January 2020, Revised 15 May 2020, Accepted 19 May 2020, Available online 30 May 2020. For constructive comments we thank the STM group at ETH Zürich and Prof. Liviu Matenco at Utrecht University. We thank Prof. Laurent Jolivet and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive reviews that improved the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Rob Govers, PhD supervisor of the first author of this paper, for allowing him to complete this work while working at Utrecht University. This study is based on research work that was undertaken by first author Mario D'Acquisto at ETH Zürich as part of his degree of MSc in Earth Sciences and which resulted in a dissertation, available from the ETH Library. Numerical simulations were run on the Euler cluster of ETH Zürich and on the Piz Daint supercomputer of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (Centro Svizzero di Calcolo Scientifico, CSCS) under project number s741. The simulations run on Euler used a computing node each, consisting of two 12-core Intel Xeon processor, while those run on Piz Daint shared Cray XC50 nodes, containing a 12-core Intel Xeon processor each. The model executable, input files and model output used for figures in this article are available in a repository at doi: This study was partly funded by the SNSF SINERGIA project Swiss-AlpArray.
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Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Numerical modeling; Geodynamics; Seismotectonics orogen; Delamination; Northern Apennines
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200601-134051131
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Official Citation:M. D'Acquisto, L. Dal Zilio, I. Molinari, E. Kissling, T. Gerya, Y. van Dinther, Tectonics and seismicity in the Northern Apennines driven by slab retreat and lithospheric delamination, Tectonophysics, Volume 789, 2020, 228481, ISSN 0040-1951, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103602
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:01 Jun 2020 20:50
Last Modified:11 Jun 2020 21:24

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