Cenozoic forearc tectonics in northeastern Japan: Relationships between outer forearc subsidence and plate boundary kinematics

Open Access
Regalla, Christine Ann
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 03, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Donald Myron Fisher, Dissertation Advisor
  • Eric Kirby, Dissertation Advisor
  • Kevin Patrick Furlong, Committee Member
  • Douglas Miller, Committee Member
  • Japan trench
  • subduction zone
  • forearc tectonics
  • erosive margins
Here we investigate the relationships between outer forearc subsidence, the timing and kinematics of upper plate deformation and plate convergence rate in Northeast Japan to evaluate the role of plate boundary dynamics in driving forearc subsidence. The Northeastern Japan margin is one of the first non-accretionary subduction zones where regional forearc subsidence was argued to reflect tectonic erosion of large volumes of upper crustal rocks. However, we propose that a significant component of forearc subsidence could be the result of dynamic changes in plate boundary geometry. We provide new constraints on the timing and kinematics of deformation along inner forearc faults, new analyses of the evolution of outer forearc tectonic subsidence, and updated calculations of plate convergence rate. These data collectively reveal a temporal correlation between the onset of regional forearc subsidence, the initiation of upper plate extension, and an acceleration in local plate convergence rate. A similar analysis of the kinematic evolution of the Tonga, Izu-Bonin, and Mariana subduction zones indicates that the temporal correlations observed in Japan are also characteristic of these three non-accretionary margins. Comparison of these data with published geodynamic models suggests that forearc subsidence is the result of temporal variability in slab geometry due to changes in slab buoyancy and plate convergence rate. These observations suggest that a significant component of forearc subsidence at these four margins is not the product of tectonic erosion, but instead reflects changes in plate boundary dynamics driven by variable plate kinematics.