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Large fluctuations of shallow seas in low-lying Southeast Asia driven by mantle flow

Zahirovic, Sabin and Flament, Nicolas and Müller, R. Dietmar and Seton, Maria and Gurnis, Michael (2016) Large fluctuations of shallow seas in low-lying Southeast Asia driven by mantle flow. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 17 (9). pp. 3589-3607. ISSN 1525-2027. doi:10.1002/2016GC006434.

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The Sundaland continental promontory, as the core of Southeast Asia, is one of the lowest lying continental regions, with half of the continental area presently inundated by a shallow sea. The role of mantle convection in driving long-wavelength topography and vertical motion of the lithosphere in this region has often been ignored when interpreting regional stratigraphy, including a widespread Late Cretaceous-Eocene unconformity, despite a consensus that Southeast Asia is presently situated over a large-amplitude, dynamic topography low resulting from long-term post-Pangea subduction. We use forward numerical models to link mantle flow with surface tectonics, and compare predicted trends of dynamic topography with eustasy and regional paleogeography to determine the influence of mantle convection on regional basin histories. A Late Cretaceous collision of Gondwana-derived terranes with Sundaland choked the active margin, leading to slab breakoff and a ∼10-15 Myr-long subduction hiatus. Slab breakoff likely resulted in several hundred meters of dynamic uplift and emergence of Sundaland between ∼80 and 60 Ma, and may explain the absence of a Late Cretaceous-Eocene sedimentary record. Renewed subduction from ∼60 Ma reinitiated dynamic subsidence of Sundaland, leading to submergence from ∼40 Ma despite falling long-term global sea levels. Our results highlight a complete ‘down-up-down' dynamic topography cycle experienced by Sundaland, with transient dynamic topography manifesting as a major regional unconformity in sedimentary basins.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemData ItemData
Zahirovic, Sabin0000-0002-6751-4976
Flament, Nicolas0000-0002-3237-0757
Müller, R. Dietmar0000-0002-3334-5764
Seton, Maria0000-0001-8541-1367
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Additional Information:© 2016 American Geophysical Union. Received 9 MAY 2016; Accepted 10 AUG 2016; Accepted article online 12 AUG 2016; Published online 13 SEP 2016. S.Z. was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award, a University of Sydney Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship and ARC grant IH130200012. N.F. was supported by ARC IH130200012. R.D.M. and M.S. were supported by ARC grants FL0992245 and FT130101564, respectively. M.G. was partially supported by Statoil ASA and by the National Science Foundation under grants CMMI-1028978, EAR-1161046 and EAR-1247022. We thank Sierd Cloetingh, Xi Liu and Laurent Husson for constructive reviews that helped improve the manuscript. Figures were constructed using Generic Mapping Tools [Wessel and Smith, 1998; Wessel et al., 2013], GPlates ( [Boyden et al., 2011], TimeScale Creator and ArcGIS. Numerical models were carried out on the Sun Constellation VAYU cluster of the Australian National Computational Infrastructure. The original CitcomS software was obtained from CIG, Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics ( We thank J. Golonka and M. Pubellier for discussions on regional and global paleogeographic and plate reconstructions. The data used are listed in the references, tables, supplements and file repository at and
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian Postgraduate AwardUNSPECIFIED
University of SydneyUNSPECIFIED
Australian Research CouncilIH130200012
Australian Research CouncilFL0992245
Australian Research CouncilFT130101564
Subject Keywords:tectonics; geodynamics; dynamic topography; mantle convection; Southeast Asia; Sundaland
Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160812-093107571
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Zahirovic, S., N. Flament, R. Dietmar Müller, M. Seton, and M. Gurnis (2016), Large fluctuations of shallow seas in low-lying Southeast Asia driven by mantle flow, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 17, 3589–3607, doi:10.1002/2016GC006434
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:69587
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:12 Aug 2016 17:04
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 04:16

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