Intra- and intertrench variations in flexural bending of the Manila, Mariana and global trenches: implications on plate weakening in controlling trench dynamics Academic Article uri icon


  • We conducted detailed analyses of a global array of trenches, revealing systematic intra- and intertrench variations in plate bending characteristics. The intratrench variations of the Manila and Mariana Trenches were analysed in detail as end-member cases of the relatively young (16–36 Ma) and old (140–160 Ma) subducting plates, respectively. Meanwhile, the intertrench variability was investigated for a global array of additional trenches including the Philippine, Kuril, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Aleutian, Tonga-Kermadec, Middle America, Peru, Chile, Sumatra and Java Trenches. Results of the analysis show that the trench relief (W0) and width (X0) of all systems are controlled primarily by the faulting-reduced elastic thickness near the trench axis (Tme) and affected only slightly by the initial unfaulted thickness (TMe) of the incoming plate. The reduction in Te has caused significant deepening and narrowing of trench valleys. For the cases of relatively young or old plates, the plate age could be a dominant factor in controlling the trench bending shape, regardless the variations in axial loadings. Our calculations also show that the axial loading and stresses of old subducting plates can vary significantly along the trench axis. In contrast, the young subducting plates show much smaller values and variations in axial loading and stresses.

publication date

  • February 1, 2018