Dynamics of intraoceanic subduction initiation: 2. Suprasubduction zone ophiolite formation and metamorphic sole exhumation in context of absolute plate motions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Douwe J J van Hinsbergen
  • Kalijn Peters
  • Wim Spakman
  • Carl Guilmette
  • Cedric Thieulot
  • Oliver Plümper
  • Derya Gürer
  • Fraukje M. Brouwer
  • Ercan Aldanmaz
  • Nuretdin Kaymakci

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Utrecht University
  • Centre for Earth Evolution and DynamicsOslo
  • Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
  • Middle East Technical University


Analyzing subduction initiation is key for understanding the coupling between plate tectonics and the underlying mantle. Here we focus on suprasubduction zone (SSZ) ophiolites and how their formation links to intraoceanic subduction initiation in an absolute plate motion frame. SSZ ophiolites form the majority of exposed oceanic lithosphere fragments and are widely recognized to have formed during intraoceanic subduction initiation. Structural, petrological, geochemical, and plate kinematic constraints on their kinematic evolution show that SSZ crust forms at fore-arc spreading centers at the expense of a mantle wedge, thereby flattening the nascent slab. This leads to the typical inverted pressure gradients found in metamorphic soles that form at the subduction plate contact below and during SSZ crust crystallization. Former spreading centers are preserved in forearcs when subduction initiates along transform faults or off-ridge oceanic detachments. We show how these are reactivated when subduction initiates in the absolute plate motion direction of the inverting weakness zone. Upon inception of slab pull due to, e.g., eclogitization, the sole is separated from the slab, remains welded to the thinned overriding plate lithosphere, and can become intruded by mafic dikes upon asthenospheric influx into the mantle wedge. We propound that most ophiolites thus formed under special geodynamic circumstances and may not be representative of normal oceanic crust. Our study highlights how far-field geodynamic processes and absolute plate motions may force intraoceanic subduction initiation as key toward advancing our understanding of the entire plate tectonic cycle.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1771-1785
JournalGeochemistry Geophysics Geosystems
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2016


  • Geochemistry, Geochronology, Metamorphic sole, Numerical modeling, Plate kinematics, Suprasubduction zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas