The sequence of phase transitions undergone by minerals with increasing depth in Earth's mantle is perturbed within subducting lithospheric slabs by their thermal structure. Such perturbation of equilibrium phase relations gives rise to relative buoyancy contrasts between slab and mantle that contribute to the state of stress within the slab. While other factors contribute to overall slab stresses, thermal and phase transition effects largely control the structure of the stress field within the slab. The resulting maximum in down-dip compressive stress within the slab corresponds to the observed peak in depth distribution of deep seismicity. Furthermore, metastable persistence of lower pressure phases within the cold slab should give rise to localized shear stresses whose distribution corresponds to observed features of subduction zone seismicity. These observations are independent of the variety of failure mechanisms proposed for deep seismogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)