The water cycle at subduction zones remains poorly understood, although subduction is the only mechanism for water transport deep into Earth. Previous estimates of water flux1,2,3 exhibit large variations in the amount of water that is subducted deeper than 100 kilometres. The main source of uncertainty in these calculations is the initial water content of the subducting uppermost mantle. Previous active-source seismic studies suggest that the subducting slab may be pervasively hydrated in the plate-bending region near the oceanic trench4,5,6,7. However, these studies do not constrain the depth extent of hydration and most investigate young incoming plates, leaving subduction-zone water budgets for old subducting plates uncertain. Here we present seismic images of the crust and uppermost mantle around the central Mariana trench derived from Rayleigh-wave analysis of broadband ocean-bottom seismic data. These images show that the low mantle velocities that result from mantle hydration extend roughly 24 kilometres beneath the Moho discontinuity. Combined with estimates of subducting crustal water, these results indicate that at least 4.3 times more water subducts than previously calculated for this region3. If other old, cold subducting slabs contain correspondingly thick layers of hydrous mantle, as suggested by the similarity of incoming plate faulting across old, cold subducting slabs, then estimates of the global water flux into the mantle at depths greater than 100 kilometres must be increased by a factor of about three compared to previous estimates3. Because a long-term net influx of water to the deep interior of Earth is inconsistent with the geological record8, estimates of water expelled at volcanic arcs and backarc basins probably also need to be revised upwards9.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Hacker, B. R. H2O subduction beyond arcs. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 9, Q03001 (2008).
Rüpke, L. H., Morgan, J. P., Hort, M. & Connolly, J. A. D. Serpentine and the subduction zone water cycle. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 223, 17–34 (2004).
van Keken, P. E., Hacker, B. R., Syracuse, E. M. & Abers, G. A. Subduction factory: 4. Depth-dependent flux of H2O from subducting slabs worldwide. J. Geophys. Res. 116, B01401 (2011).
Fujie, G. et al. Systematic changes in the incoming plate structure at the Kuril trench. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 88–93 (2013).
Ranero, C. R., Phipps Morgan, J., McIntosh, K. & Reichert, C. Bending-related faulting and mantle serpentinization at the Middle America trench. Nature 425, 367–373 (2003).
Shillington, D. J. et al. Link between plate fabric, hydration and subduction zone seismicity in Alaska. Nat. Geosci. 8, 961–964 (2015).
Van Avendonk, H. J. A., Holbrook, W. S., Lizarralde, D. & Denyer, P. Structure and serpentinization of the subducting Cocos plate offshore Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 12, Q06009 (2011).
Parai, R. & Mukhopadhyay, S. How large is the subducted water flux? New constraints on mantle regassing rates. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 317–318, 396–406 (2012).
Grove, T. L., Till, C. B. & Krawczynski, M. J. The role of H2O in subduction zone magmatism. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 40, 413–439 (2012).
Fryer, P. Serpentinite mud volcanism: observations, processes, and implications. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 4, 345–373 (2012).
Barklage, M. et al. P and S velocity tomography of the Mariana subduction system from a combined land-sea seismic deployment. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 16, 681–704 (2015).
Kelley, K. A. et al. Mantle melting as a function of water content beneath the Mariana arc. J. Petrol. 51, 1711–1738 (2010).
Shaw, A. M., Hauri, E. H., Fischer, T. P., Hilton, D. R. & Kelley, K. A. Hydrogen isotopes in Mariana arc melt inclusions: implications for subduction dehydration and the deep-Earth water cycle. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 275, 138–145 (2008).
Müller, R. D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. & Roest, W. R. Age, spreading rates, and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 9, Q04006 (2008).
Emry, E. L., Wiens, D. A. & Garcia-Castellanos, D. Faulting within the Pacific plate at the Mariana trench: implications for plate interface coupling and subduction of hydrous minerals. J. Geophys. Res. 119, 3076–3095 (2014).
Oakley, A. J., Taylor, B. & Moore, G. F. Pacific plate subduction beneath the central Mariana and Izu-Bonin fore arcs: new insights from an old margin. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 9, Q06003 (2008).
Christensen, N. I. Serpentinites, peridotites, and seismology. Int. Geol. Rev. 46, 795–816 (2004).
Nishimura, C. E. & Forsyth, D. W. The anisotropic structure of the upper mantle in the Pacific. Geophys. J. Int. 96, 203–229 (1989).
Feng, H. S.-H. Seismic Constraints on the Processes and Consequences of Secondary Igneous Evolution of Pacific Oceanic Lithosphere. PhD thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2016).
Faccenda, M., Gerya, T. V., Mancktelow, N. S. & Moresi, L. Fluid flow during slab unbending and dehydration: implications for intermediate-depth seismicity, slab weakening and deep water recycling. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 13, Q01010 (2012).
Reynard, B. Serpentine in active subduction zones. Lithos 178, 171–185 (2013).
Nakatani, T. & Nakamura, M. Experimental constraints on the serpentinization rate of fore-arc peridotites: implications for the upwelling condition of the slab-derived fluid. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 17, 3393–3419 (2016).
Korenaga, J. On the extent of mantle hydration caused by plate bending. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 457, 1–9 (2017).
David, C., Wong, T.-F., Zhu, W. & Zhang, J. Laboratory measurement of compaction-induced permeability change in porous rocks: implications for the generation and maintenance of pore pressure excess in the crust. Pure Appl. Geophys. 143, 425–456 (1994).
Stein, C. A. & Stein, S. A model for the global variation in oceanic depth and heat flow with lithospheric age. Nature 359, 123–129 (1992).
Schwartz, S. et al. Pressure–temperature estimates of the lizardite/antigorite transition in high pressure serpentinites. Lithos 178, 197–210 (2013).
Ji, S. et al. Seismic velocities, anisotropy, and shear-wave splitting of antigorite serpentinites and tectonic implications for subduction zones. J. Geophys. Res. 118, 1015–1037 (2013).
Miller, N. C. & Lizarralde, D. Finite-frequency wave propagation through outer rise fault zones and seismic measurements of upper mantle hydration. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 7982–7990 (2016).
Emry, E. L. & Wiens, D. A. Incoming plate faulting in the northern and western Pacific and implications for subduction zone water budgets. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 414, 176–186 (2015).
Nakanishi, M., Tamaki, K. & Kobayashi, K. Magnetic anomaly lineations from Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous in the west-central Pacific Ocean. Geophys. J. Int. 109, 701–719 (1992).
Takahashi, N., Kodaira, S., Tatsumi, Y., Kaneda, Y. & Suyehiro, K. Structure and growth of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc crust: 1. Seismic constraint on crust and mantle structure of the Mariana arc–back-arc system. J. Geophys. Res. 113, B01104 (2008).
Hayes, G. P., Wald, D. J. & Johnson, R. L. Slab1.0: a three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries. J. Geophys. Res. 117, B01302 (2012).
Emry, E. L., Wiens, D. A., Shiobara, H. & Sugioka, H. Seismogenic characteristics of the northern Mariana shallow thrust zone from local array data. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 12, Q12008 (2011).
Bensen, G. D. et al. Processing seismic ambient noise data to obtain reliable broad-band surface wave dispersion measurements. Geophys. J. Int. 169, 1239–1260 (2007).
Lin, F.-C., Moschetti, M. P. & Ritzwoller, M. H. Surface wave tomography of the western United States from ambient seismic noise: Rayleigh and Love wave phase velocity maps. Geophys. J. Int. 173, 281–298 (2008).
Levshin, A. L. & Ritzwoller, M. H. Automated detection, extraction, and measurement of regional surface waves. Pure Appl. Geophys. 158, 1531–1545 (2001).
Barmin, M. P., Ritzwoller, M. H. & Levshin, A. L. A fast and reliable method for surface wave tomography. Pure Appl. Geophys. 158, 1351–1375 (2001).
Jin, G. & Gaherty, J. B. Surface wave phase-velocity tomography based on multichannel cross-correlation. Geophys. J. Int. 201, 1383–1398 (2015).
Bell, S. W., Forsyth, D. W. & Ruan, Y. Removing noise from the vertical component records of ocean-bottom seismometers: results from year one of the Cascadia Initiative. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 105, 300–313 (2015).
Crawford, W. C. & Webb, S. Identifying and removing tilt noise from low-frequency (<0.1 Hz) seafloor vertical seismic data. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 90, 952–963 (2000).
Webb, S. C. & Crawford, W. C. Long-period seafloor seismology and deformation under ocean waves. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 89, 1535–1542 (1999).
Lin, F.-C., Ritzwoller, M. H. & Snieder, R. Eikonal tomography: surface wave tomography by phase front tracking across a regional broad-band seismic array. Geophys. J. Int. 177, 1091–1110 (2009).
Lin, F.-C. & Ritzwoller, M. H. Helmholtz surface wave tomography for isotropic and azimuthally anisotropic structure. Geophys. J. Int. 186, 1104–1120 (2011).
Shen, W. et al. A seismic reference model for the crust and uppermost mantle beneath China from surface wave dispersion. Geophys. J. Int. 206, 954–979 (2016).
Yang, Y. & Forsyth, D. W. Regional tomographic inversion of the amplitude and phase of Rayleigh waves with 2-D sensitivity kernels. Geophys. J. Int. 166, 1148–1160 (2006).
Shen, W., Ritzwoller, M. H., Schulte-Pelkum, V. & Lin, F.-C. Joint inversion of surface wave dispersion and receiver functions: a Bayesian Monte-Carlo approach. Geophys. J. Int. 192, 807–836 (2013).
Wei, S. S. et al. Seismic evidence of effects of water on melt transport in the Lau back-arc mantle. Nature 518, 395–398 (2015).
Lindquist, K. G., Engle, K., Stahlke, D. & Price, E. Global topography and bathymetry grid improves research efforts. Eos 85, 186 (2004).
Kanamori, H. & Anderson, D. L. Importance of physical dispersion in surface wave and free oscillation problems: review. Rev. Geophys. 15, 105–112 (1977).
Pozgay, S. H., Wiens, D. A., Conder, J. A., Shiobara, H. & Sugioka, H. Seismic attenuation tomography of the Mariana subduction system: implications for thermal structure, volatile distribution, and slow spreading dynamics. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 10, Q04X05 (2009).
Wei, S. S. et al. Upper mantle structure of the Tonga-Lau-Fiji region from Rayleigh wave tomography. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 17, 4705–4724 (2016).
Herrmann, R. B. Computer programs in seismology: an evolving tool for instruction and research. Seismol. Res. Lett. 84, 1081–1088 (2013).
Contreras-Reyes, E., Grevemeyer, I., Flueh, E. R., Scherwath, M. & Heesemann, M. Alteration of the subducting oceanic lithosphere at the southern central Chile trench-outer rise. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 8, Q07003 (2007).
Contreras-Reyes, E. et al. Deep seismic structure of the Tonga subduction zone: implications for mantle hydration, tectonic erosion, and arc magmatism. J. Geophys. Res. 116, B10103 (2011).
DeShon, H. R. & Schwartz, S. Y. Evidence for serpentinization of the forearc mantle wedge along the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L21611 (2004).
Garth, T. & Rietbrock, A. Constraining the hydration of the subducting Nazca plate beneath Northern Chile using subduction zone guided waves. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 474, 237–247 (2017).
Savage, B. Seismic constraints on the water flux delivered to the deep Earth by subduction. Geology 40, 235–238 (2012).
Evans, B. W. The serpentinite multisystem revisited: chrysotile is metastable. Int. Geol. Rev. 46, 479–506 (2004).
Guillot, S., Schwartz, S., Reynard, B., Agard, P. & Prigent, C. Tectonic significance of serpentinites. Tectonophysics 646, 1–19 (2015).
Perrillat, J.-P. et al. Kinetics of antigorite dehydration: a real-time X-ray diffraction study. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 236, 899–913 (2005).
Ulmer, P. & Trommsdorff, V. Serpentine stability to mantle depths and subduction-related magmatism. Science 268, 858–861 (1995).
Wunder, B. & Schreyer, W. Antigorite: high-pressure stability in the system MgO-SiO2-H2O (MSH). Lithos 41, 213–227 (1997).
Gurevich, B. Elastic properties of saturated porous rocks with aligned fractures. J. Appl. Geophys. 54, 203–218 (2003).
Hudson, J. A., Liu, E. & Crampin, S. The mechanical properties of materials with interconnected cracks and pores. Geophys. J. Int. 124, 105–112 (1996).
Backus, G. E. Long-wave elastic anisotropy produced by horizontal layering. J. Geophys. Res. 67, 4427–4440 (1962).
We thank P. J. Shore, H. Jian and the captains, crew and science parties of the RVs R. Revelle and Melville for data collection; S. Wei and M. Pratt for helping with data processing; R. Parai and M. J. Krawczynski for discussions; and X. Wang for support. IRIS PASSCAL and OBSIP provided land-based seismic instrumentation and ocean-bottom seismographs, respectively. This work was supported by the GeoPRISMS Program under NSF grant OCE-0841074 (D.A.W.).
Nature thanks C. Rodríguez Ranero & D. Shillington for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Extended data figures and tables
a, The assumed geometry of the subduction zone according to our prior knowledge. b, c, Simulation results for nodes 80 km (b) and 110 km (c) landward from the trench. The black dashed lines are the input one-dimensional models; blue dashed and solid lines are the best-fitting and average models from the Monte Carlo inversion of the synthetic dispersion curves, respectively; red dashed and solid lines are the best-fitting and average models from the Monte Carlo inversion of the real data.
Extended Data Fig. 2 Azimuthal anisotropy from evenly distributed serpentine layers (of thickness 450 m and with a spacing of 2 km).
a, Result for vertical layering. b, Result for 45° dipping layering. Numbers in the parenthesis are the mean velocity for quasi-P, quasi-SV or quasi-SH. The incidence angle is defined relative to the strike of the layer: 0° is parallel and 90° is normal to the strike.
a, b, Group velocity (colour scale) at periods of 10 s (a) and 21 s (b) inverted by ANT. c, d, Phase velocity (colour scale) at periods of 10 s (c) and 21 s (d) from ANT. e, f, Phase velocity (colour scale) for periods of 25 s (e) and 40 s (f) inverted by HT. 3-km, 4-km and 5-km bathymetry contours are shown as thin grey lines. The trench axis and serpentine seamounts are shown as in Fig. 1a.
Blue dots represent ISC earthquake locations. The red star shows the location of the Mariana trench.
a–d, The joint Rayleigh phase and group dispersion data (error bars, one standard deviation) and computed phase (red solid lines) and group (blue solid lines) dispersion curves from the Bayesian Monte Carlo averaged model, for four locations: a, inner forearc; b, outer forearc; c, trench high; d, Pacific plate. e–h, Shear-velocity model from the Bayesian Monte Carlo inversion for the four example locations. i, Phase-velocity sensitivity kernels at example periods, calculated using the average velocity model in g.
About this article
Cite this article
Cai, C., Wiens, D.A., Shen, W. et al. Water input into the Mariana subduction zone estimated from ocean-bottom seismic data. Nature 563, 389–392 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0655-4
- Incoming Plate
- Plate Subduction
- Bending Faults
- Ocean Bottom Seismographs
Nature Communications (2021)
Nature Communications (2021)
Scientific Reports (2021)
Nature Geoscience (2021)
Deep mantle melting, global water circulation and its implications for the stability of the ocean mass
Progress in Earth and Planetary Science (2020)