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Journal Articles Geophysical Journal International Year : 2005

The plume head-lithosphere interaction using a tectonically realistic formulation for the lithosphere

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Abstract

Current debates on the existence of mantle plumes largely originate from interpretations of supposed signatures of plume-induced surface topography that are compared with predictions of geodynamic models of plume–lithosphere interactions. These models often inaccurately predict surface evolution: in general, they assume a fixed upper surface and consider the lithosphere as a single viscous layer. In nature, the surface evolution is affected by the elastic–brittle–ductile deformation, by a free upper surface and by the layered structure of the lithosphere. We make a step towards reconciling mantle- and tectonic-scale studies by introducing a tectonically realistic continental plate model in large-scale plume–lithosphere interaction. This model includes (i) a natural free surface boundary condition, (ii) an explicit elastic–viscous(ductile)–plastic(brittle) rheology and (iii) a stratified structure of continental lithosphere. The numerical experiments demonstrate a number of important differences from predictions of conventional models. In particular, this relates to plate bending, mechanical decoupling of crustal and mantle layers and tension–compression instabilities, which produce transient topographic signatures such as uplift and subsidence at large (>500 km) and small scale (300–400, 200–300 and 50–100 km). The mantle plumes do not necessarily produce detectable large-scale topographic highs but often generate only alternating small-scale surface features that could otherwise be attributed to regional tectonics. A single large-wavelength deformation, predicted by conventional models, develops only for a very cold and thick lithosphere. Distinct topographic wavelengths or temporarily spaced events observed in the East African rift system, as well as over French Massif Central, can be explained by a single plume impinging at the base of the continental lithosphere, without evoking complex asthenospheric upwelling.
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Dates and versions

hal-00023754 , version 1 (01-03-2021)

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Evgenii E.B. Burov, Laurent Guillou-Frottier. The plume head-lithosphere interaction using a tectonically realistic formulation for the lithosphere. Geophysical Journal International, 2005, 161 (2), pp.469-490. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-246X.2005.02588.x⟩. ⟨hal-00023754⟩
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