Diagram of the geological process of subduction

Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the [1] Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.[1]

Plates include both oceanic crust and continental crust. Stable subduction zones involve the oceanic lithosphere of one plate sliding beneath the continental or oceanic lithosphere of another plate due to the higher density of the oceanic lithosphere. That is, the subducted lithosphere is always oceanic while the overriding lithosphere may or may not be oceanic. Subduction zones are sites that usually have a high rate of volcanism and earthquakes.[2][better source needed] Furthermore, subduction zones develop belts of deformation and metamorphism in the subducting crust, whose exhumation is part of orogeny and also leads to mountain building in addition to collisional thickening.

General description

Subduction zones are sites of gravitational sinking of Earth's lithosphere (the crust plus the top non-convecting portion of the upper mantle).[3] Subduction zones exist at convergent plate boundaries where one plate of oceanic lithosphere converges with another plate. The descending slab, the subducting plate, is over-ridden by the leading edge of the other plate. The slab sinks at an angle of approximately twenty-five to forty-five degrees to Earth's surface. This sinking is driven by the temperature difference between the subducting oceanic lithosphere and the surrounding mantle asthenosphere, as the colder oceanic lithosphere has, on average, a greater density. At a depth of greater than 60 kilometers, the basalt of the oceanic crust is converted to a metamorphic rock called eclogite. At that point, the density of the oceanic crust increases and provides additional negative buoyancy (downwards force). It is at subduction zones that Earth's lithosphere, oceanic crust and continental crust, sedimentary layers and some trapped water are recycled into the deep mantle.

Earth is so far the only planet where subduction is known to occur. Subduction is the driving force behind plate tectonics, and without it, plate tectonics could not occur.


Oceanic subduction zones dive down into the mantle beneath 55,000 kilometers of convergent plate margins (Lallemand, 1999), almost equal to the cumulative 60,000 kilometers of mid-ocean ridges. Subduction zones burrow deeply, but are imperfectly camouflaged, and geophysics and geochemistry can be used to study them. Not surprisingly, the shallowest portions of subduction zones are known best. Subduction zones are strongly asymmetric for the first several hundred kilometers of their descent. They start to go down at oceanic trenches. Their descents are marked by inclined zones of earthquakes that dip away from the trench beneath the volcanoes and extend down to the 660-kilometer discontinuity. Subduction zones are defined by the inclined array of earthquakes known as the Wadati–Benioff zone after the two scientists who first identified this distinctive aspect. Subduction zone earthquakes occur at greater depths (up to 600 km) than elsewhere on Earth (typically less than 20 km depth); such deep earthquakes may be driven by deep phase transformations, thermal runaway, or dehydration embrittlement.[4][5]

The subducting basalt and sediment are normally rich in hydrous minerals and clays. Additionally, large quantities of water are introduced into cracks and fractures created as the subducting slab bends downward.[6] During the transition from basalt to eclogite, these hydrous materials break down, producing copious quantities of water, which at such great pressure and temperature exists as a supercritical fluid. The supercritical water, which is hot and more buoyant than the surrounding rock, rises into the overlying mantle where it lowers the pressure in (and thus the melting temperature of) the mantle rock to the point of actual melting, generating magma. The magmas, in turn, rise (and become labeled diapirs) because they are less dense than the rocks of the mantle. The mantle-derived magmas (which are basaltic in composition) can continue to rise, ultimately to Earth's surface, resulting in a volcanic eruption. The chemical composition of the erupting lava depends upon the degree to which the mantle-derived basalt interacts with (melts) Earth's crust and/or undergoes fractional crystallization.

Above subduction zones, volcanoes exist in long chains called volcanic arcs. Volcanoes that exist along arcs tend to produce dangerous eruptions because they are rich in water (from the slab and sediments) and tend to be extremely explosive. Krakatoa, Nevado del Ruiz, and Mount Vesuvius are all examples of arc volcanoes. Arcs are also known to be associated with precious metals such as gold, silver and copper believed to be carried by water and concentrated in and around their host volcanoes in rock called "ore".

Other Languages
العربية: اندساس
asturianu: Subducción
भोजपुरी: धँसाव
български: Субдукция
bosanski: Subdukcija
brezhoneg: Subduktadur
català: Subducció
čeština: Subdukce
dansk: Subduktion
Deutsch: Subduktion
español: Subducción
Esperanto: Subdukcio
euskara: Subdukzio
فارسی: فرورانش
français: Subduction
galego: Subdución
한국어: 섭입
हिन्दी: निम्नस्खलन
hrvatski: Subdukcija
Bahasa Indonesia: Penunjaman
italiano: Subduzione
עברית: הפחתה
ქართული: სუბდუქცია
Kreyòl ayisyen: Sibdiksyon
latviešu: Subdukcija
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magyar: Szubdukció
Bahasa Melayu: Zon benam
Nederlands: Subductie
日本語: 沈み込み帯
norsk nynorsk: Subduksjon i geologi
occitan: Subduccion
polski: Subdukcja
português: Subducção
română: Subducție
русиньскый: Субдукция
Scots: Subduction
Simple English: Subduction
slovenčina: Subdukcia
slovenščina: Subdukcija
српски / srpski: Субдукција
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Subdukcija
Türkçe: Yitim zonu
українська: Субдукція
Tiếng Việt: Hút chìm
中文: 隱沒帶