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Changbaishan volcanism in northeast China linked to subduction-induced mantle upwelling


Volcanism that occurs far from plate margins is difficult to explain with the current paradigm of plate tectonics. The Changbaishan volcanic complex, located on the border between China and North Korea, lies approximately 1,300 km away from the Japan Trench subduction zone and is unlikely to result from a mantle plume rising from a thermal boundary layer at the base of the mantle. Here we use seismic images and three-dimensional waveform modelling results obtained from the NECESSArray experiment to identify a slow, continuous seismic anomaly in the mantle beneath Changbaishan. The anomaly extends from just below 660 km depth to the surface beneath Changbaishan and occurs within a gap in the stagnant subducted Pacific Plate. We propose that the anomaly represents hot and buoyant sub-lithospheric mantle that has been entrained beneath the sinking lithosphere of the Pacific Plate and is now escaping through a gap in the subducting slab. We suggest that this subduction-induced upwelling process produces decompression melting that feeds the Changbaishan volcanoes. Subduction-induced upwelling may also explain back-arc volcanism observed at other subduction zones.

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Figure 1: Map of northeast China and surrounding areas.
Figure 2: Tomographic images beneath northeast China.
Figure 3: Depth cross-sections of velocity anomalies.
Figure 4: Three-dimensional waveform modelling.
Figure 5: Diagram showing our proposed model for the origin of Changbaishan volcanism.


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We thank all the people in the NECESSArray project for installing and servicing the seismic array. Discussions with H. Zou and A. Forte were helpful in preparing the manuscript. The NECESSArray project was supported by NSF and JSPS.

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Authors and Affiliations



Y.T. conducted the S-wave tomography and three-dimensional waveform modelling; M.O. conducted the P-wave tomography; F.N. conducted the receiver-function analysis; S.P.G. took the lead in writing the manuscript. All of the authors contributed to the data acquisition and interpretation.

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Correspondence to Fenglin Niu.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Tang, Y., Obayashi, M., Niu, F. et al. Changbaishan volcanism in northeast China linked to subduction-induced mantle upwelling. Nature Geosci 7, 470–475 (2014).

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