The importance of slab–slab interactions is manifested in the kinematics and geometry of the Philippine Sea Plate and western Pacific subduction zones, and such interactions offer a dynamic basis for the first-order observations in this complex subduction setting. The westward subduction of the Pacific Sea Plate changes, along-strike, from single slab subduction beneath Japan, to a double-subduction setting where Pacific subduction beneath the Philippine Sea Plate occurs in tandem with westward subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath Eurasia. Our 3-D numerical models show that there are fundamental differences between single slab systems and double slab systems where both subduction systems have the same vergence. We find that the observed kinematics and slab geometry of the Pacific–Philippine subduction can be understood by considering an along-strike transition from single to double subduction, and is largely independent from the detailed geometry of the Philippine Sea Plate. Important first order features include the relatively shallow slab dip, retreating/stationary trenches, and rapid subduction for single slab systems (Pacific Plate subducting under Japan), and front slabs within a double slab system (Philippine Sea Plate subducting at Ryukyu). In contrast, steep to overturned slab dips, advancing trench motion, and slower subduction occurs for rear slabs in a double slab setting (Pacific subducting at the Izu–Bonin–Mariana). This happens because of a relative build-up of pressure in the asthenosphere beneath the Philippine Sea Plate, where the asthenosphere is constrained between the converging Ryukyu and Izu–Bonin–Mariana slabs. When weak back-arc regions are included, slab–slab convergence rates slow and the middle (Philippine) plate extends, which leads to reduced pressure build up and reduced slab–slab coupling. Models without back-arcs, or with back-arc viscosities that are reduced by a factor of five, produce kinematics compatible with present-day observations.
Holt, A.F., Royden, L.H., Becker, T.W., Faccenna, C. (2018). Slab interactions in 3-D subduction settings: The Philippine Sea Plate region. EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS, 489, 72-83 [10.1016/j.epsl.2018.02.024].