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Small-scale convection in a plume-fed low-viscosity layer beneath a moving plate

Abstract : Two-dimensional simulations using a thermomechanical model based on a finite-difference method on a staggered grid and a marker in cell method are performed to study the plume-lithosphere interaction beneath moving plates. The plate and the convective mantle are modelled as a homogeneous peridotite with a Newtonian temperature- and pressure-dependent viscosity. A constant velocity, ranging from 5 to 12.5 cm yr−1, is imposed at the top of the plate. Plumes are generated by imposing a thermal anomaly of 150 to 350 K on a 50 km wide domain at the base of the model (700 km depth); the plate atop this thermal anomaly is 40 Myr old. We analyse (1) the kinematics of the plume as it impacts the moving plate, (2) the dynamics of time-dependent small-scale convection (SSC) instabilities developing in the low-viscosity layer formed by spreading of hot plume material at the base of the lithosphere and (3) the resulting thermal rejuvenation of the lithosphere. The spreading of the plume material at the base of the lithosphere, characterized by the ratio between the maximum down- and upstream horizontal (dimensionless) velocities in the plume-fed sublithospheric layer, Peup/Pedown depends on the ratio between the maximum plume upwelling velocity and the plate velocity, Peplume/Peplate. For fast plate velocities and sluggish plumes (low Peplume/Peplate), plate motion drags most plume material and downstream flow is dominant. As Peplume/Peplate increases, an increasing part of the plume material flows upstream. SSC systematically develops in the plume-fed sublithospheric layer, downstream from the plume. Onset time of SSC decreases with the Rayleigh number. For vigorous plumes, it does not depend on plate velocity. For more sluggish plumes, however, variations in the plume spreading behaviour at the base of the lithosphere result in a decrease in the onset time of SSCs with increasing plate velocity. In any case, SSC results in uplift of the isotherm 1573 K by up to 20 km relative to its initial equilibrium depth at the impact point.
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Roberto Agrusta, Diane Arcay, Andrea Tommasi, Anne Davaille, Neil Ribe, et al.. Small-scale convection in a plume-fed low-viscosity layer beneath a moving plate. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2013, 194 (2), pp.591-610. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggt128⟩. ⟨hal-00856763⟩

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