Tearing of Stagnant Slab

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Science  29 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5931, pp. 1173-1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172496

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Subducted slabs of oceanic lithosphere below the western Pacific tend to be stagnant in the transition zone with poorly known mechanical properties. Typical examples are the Izu-Bonin and Japan slabs that meet each other to form a cusplike junction beneath southwest Japan. Here, we show that these two slabs are torn apart at their junction when they bend to flatten over the 660-kilometer discontinuity, as is expected from a simple geometric argument. We present three lines of evidence for this ongoing slab tear.

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