Mechanism for normal faulting in the subducting plate at the Mariana Trench Academic Article uri icon


  • We investigate the mechanisms of normal fault initiation and evolution in the subducting Pacific Plate near the Mariana Trench, through bathymetry analysis and geodynamic modeling. We model the subducting plate as an elastoplastic slab subjected to tectonic forcing at the trench, including vertical load, bending moment, and horizontal tensional force. In our simulations, normal faults initiate within the outer rise region and reach maximum throw toward the trench. This result holds over a wide range of tectonic forcing and is consistent with observations of the Challenger Deep region, where multibeam bathymetry data indicate faults initiate near the outer rise at 70–110?km from the trench and reach maximum throw at 10–35?km from the trench. However, models require a horizontal tensional force with magnitude comparable to axial vertical load to jointly explain the observed seafloor bathymetry, location of maximum normal fault throw, and prevalence of normal faults dipping toward the trench.

publication date

  • June 16, 2015