Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Intraoceanic subduction spanned the Pacific in the Late Cretaceous–Paleocene

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Science Advances  08 Nov 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 11, eaao2303
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao2303

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The notorious ~60° bend separating the Hawaiian and Emperor chains marked a prominent change in the motion of the Pacific plate at ~47 Ma (million years ago), but the origin of that change remains an outstanding controversy that bears on the nature of major plate reorganizations. Lesser known but equally significant is a conundrum posed by the pre-bend (~80 to 47 Ma) motion of the Pacific plate, which, according to conventional plate models, was directed toward a fast-spreading ridge, in contradiction to tectonic forcing expectations. Using constraints provided by seismic tomography, paleomagnetism, and continental margin geology, we demonstrate that two intraoceanic subduction zones spanned the width of the North Pacific Ocean in Late Cretaceous through Paleocene time, and we present a simple plate tectonic model that explains how those intraoceanic subduction zones shaped the ~80 to 47 Ma kinematic history of the Pacific realm and drove a major plate reorganization.

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