Send to

Choose Destination
Science. 2010 Aug 27;329(5995):1033-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1191223.

The dynamics of plate tectonics and mantle flow: from local to global scales.

Author information

Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Plate tectonics is regulated by driving and resisting forces concentrated at plate boundaries, but observationally constrained high-resolution models of global mantle flow remain a computational challenge. We capitalized on advances in adaptive mesh refinement algorithms on parallel computers to simulate global mantle flow by incorporating plate motions, with individual plate margins resolved down to a scale of 1 kilometer. Back-arc extension and slab rollback are emergent consequences of slab descent in the upper mantle. Cold thermal anomalies within the lower mantle couple into oceanic plates through narrow high-viscosity slabs, altering the velocity of oceanic plates. Viscous dissipation within the bending lithosphere at trenches amounts to approximately 5 to 20% of the total dissipation through the entire lithosphere and mantle.

Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center