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The Horizontal Slab Beneath East Asia and Its Subdued Surface Dynamic Response

Liu, Shaofeng and Ma, Pengfei and Zhang, Bo and Gurnis, Michael (2021) The Horizontal Slab Beneath East Asia and Its Subdued Surface Dynamic Response. Journal of Geophysical Research. Solid Earth, 126 (3). Art. No. e2020JB021156. ISSN 2169-9313. doi:10.1029/2020jb021156.

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The kinematics of plate tectonics, deformation, and dynamic topography are strong indicators of coupling between plates and the mantle. East Asia is characterized by the presence of an unusually large horizontal slab that lies within the mantle transition zone. How this feature evolved and is linked to plate tectonics, deformation, and topography is poorly understood. Here, we show four‐dimensional geodynamic modeling results constrained by a new deforming plate reconstruction that fits mantle architecture inferred from seismic tomography. We find that the subducted western Pacific slab was progressively torn by the Philippine Sea plate rotating clockwise during the Miocene and that northwestward mantle flow contributed to shaping the horizontal slab during subduction, leading to dynamic subsidence along the East Asia margin. The rather subdued change in dynamic topography, predicted from those models that fit the horizontal slab in the mantle, is consistent with the variation in residual topography, recorded in the stratigraphy, within only about ±200 m over the last 50 Myr during a period of no large marine inundation or retreat. The tectonics and topography of East Asia strongly contrast with those of Southeast Asia and are reflective of slabs ephemerally stagnating in the mantle below East Asia while avalanching into the lower mantle below Southeast Asia.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Liu, Shaofeng0000-0002-6667-3721
Ma, Pengfei0000-0001-8078-6784
Zhang, Bo0000-0001-5407-7781
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Additional Information:© 2021 American Geophysical Union. Issue Online: 25 March 2021; Version of Record online: 25 March 2021; Accepted manuscript online: 10 March 2021; Manuscript accepted: 22 February 2021; Manuscript revised: 18 February 2021; Manuscript received: 05 November 2020. This work was funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program (b) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB18000000), National Natural Science Foundation of China grants (Nos. 41820104004, 91114203, and 41572189), the National Key R&D Plan (Grant Nos. 2017YFC0601405 and 2018YFE0204204), and the US National Science Foundation (EAR‐1645775). The authors thank D. Müller and S. Zahirovic for generously sharing the age grid software; D. Bower, N. Flament, and L. J. Liu for valuable discussions on the data‐assimilation method; W. Leng and T. Yang for assistance with CitcomS; Z. Yinbing and Y. Xiang for sharing their residual data. They also thank Drs. F. A. Capitanio, A. Schettino, and an anonymous reviewer for their very detailed reviews and constructive comments. Computations were performed at the Geodynamic Modeling Lab (GML), China University of Geosciences (Beijing). Conflict of Interest: No financial conflicts of interests for any author of this study. No any other affiliation for any author that may be perceived as having a conflict of interest with respect to the results of this study. Data Availability Statement: Datasets for this research are available in these in‐text data citation references: Müller et al. (2016), Zahirovic et al. (2016), Liu et al. (2017), Ma et al. (2019). The authors will deposit their data at the Caltech Data Repository (, a repository maintained by the Caltech Library in which all content is indefinitely retained.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Chinese Academy of SciencesXDB18000000
National Natural Science Foundation of China41820104004
National Natural Science Foundation of China91114203
National Natural Science Foundation of China41572189
National Key Basic Research Program of China2017YFC0601405
National Key Basic Research Program of China2018YFE0204204
Subject Keywords:deforming plate reconstruction; dynamic topography; East Asia; four‐dimensional plate‐mantle systems; horizontal slab; stagnant
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210317-075504875
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Liu, S., Ma, P., Zhang, B., & Gurnis, M. (2021). The horizontal slab beneath East Asia and its subdued surface dynamic response. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126, e2020JB021156.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108454
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Mar 2021 20:59
Last Modified:10 Sep 2021 08:05

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