Which Event Causes the Formation of Trenches in Earth’s Crust

Long and narrow depressions of the ocean floor

Oceanic crust is formed at an oceanic ridge, while the lithosphere is subducted back into the asthenosphere at trenches

Oceanic trenches
are prominent long, narrow topographic depressions of the sea floor. They are typically 50 to 100 kilometers (30 to 60 mi) wide and 3 to 4 km (i.9 to 2.5 mi) below the level of the surrounding oceanic floor, simply can be thousands of kilometers in length. At that place are about 50,000 kilometers (31,000 mi) of oceanic trenches worldwide, mostly around the Pacific Body of water, merely too in the eastern Indian Ocean and a few other locations. The greatest bounding main depth measured is in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, at a depth of 11,034 m (36,201 ft) below sea level.

Oceanic trenches are a feature of the Globe’s distinctive plate tectonics. They mark the locations of convergent plate boundaries, along which lithospheric plates move towards each other at rates that vary from a few millimeters to over ten centimeters per yr. Oceanic lithosphere moves into trenches at a global rate of about iii km2/yr.[1]
A trench marks the position at which the flexed, subducting slab begins to descend beneath another lithospheric slab. Trenches are generally parallel to and about 200 km (120 mi) from a volcanic arc.

Much of the fluid trapped in sediments of the subducting slab returns to the surface at the oceanic trench, producing mud volcanoes and cold seeps. These support unique biomes based on chemotrophic microorganisms. There is business organization that plastic droppings is accumulating in trenches and threatening these communities.

Geographic distribution


At that place are approximately 50,000 km (31,000 mi) of convergent plate margins worldwide. These are generally located around the Pacific Ocean, but are also institute in the eastern Indian Body of water, with a few shorter convergent margin segments in other parts of the Indian Ocean, in the Atlantic Ocean, and in the Mediterranean.[2]
They are found on the oceanward side of island arcs and Andean-type orogens.[iii]
Globally, there are over 50 major ocean trenches covering an area of one.9 million km2
or about 0.5% of the oceans.[4]

Trenches are geomorphologically distinct from troughs. Troughs are elongated depressions of the sea floor with steep sides and flat bottoms, while trenches are characterized by a V-shaped profile.[iv]
Trenches that are partially infilled are sometimes described as troughs (such as the Makran Trough[5]) and sometimes trenches are completely buried and lack bathymetric expression (such as the Cascadia subduction zone,[half dozen]
which is completely filled with sediments[seven]) but the fundamental plate tectonics structures that these correspond are those of oceanic trenches. Still, many troughs represent dissimilar kinds of tectonic structures, such as the Lesser Antilles Trough, which is the forearc basin of the Lesser Antilles subduction zone;[8]
the New Caledonia trough, which is an extensional sedimentary basin related to the Tonga-Kermadec subduction zone;[9]
and the Cayman Trough, which is a pull-apart bowl within a transform fault zone.[x]

Trenches, along with volcanic arcs and Wadati-Benioff zones (zones of earthquakes that dip under the volcanic arc every bit deeply as 700 kilometers (430 mi)) are diagnostic of convergent plate boundaries and their deeper manifestations, subduction zones.[ii]
Here 2 tectonic plates are drifting into each other at a rate of a few millimeters to over 10 centimeters (4 in) per year. At least one of the plates is oceanic lithosphere, which plunges nether the other plate to be recycled in the Earth’s curtain. Trenches are related to but distinguished from continental collision zones (such as that betwixt India and Asia forming the Himalaya), where continental crust enters a subduction zone. When buoyant continental chaff enters a trench, subduction comes to a halt and the area becomes a zone of continental collision. Features analogous to trenches are associated with standoff zones, including
peripheral foreland basins, which are sediment-filled foredeeps. Examples of peripheral foreland basins include the floodplains of the Ganges River and the Tigris-Euphrates river system.[2]

History of the term “trench”


Trenches were non conspicuously defined until the late 1940s and 1950s. The bathymetry of the body of water was poorly known prior to the Challenger expedition of 1872–1876,[12]
which took 492 soundings of the deep ocean.[13]
At station #225, the expedition discovered Challenger Deep,[14]
now known to be the southern end of the Mariana Trench. The laying of transatlantic telegraph cables on the seafloor between the continents during the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided further motivation for improved bathymetry.[xv]
The term
trench, in its modernistic sense of a prominent elongated depression of the bounding main bottom, was first used by Johnstone in his 1923 textbook
An Introduction to Oceanography.[16]

During the 1920s and 1930s, Felix Andries Vening Meinesz measured gravity over trenches using a newly adult gravimeter that could measure gravity from aboard a submarine.[11]
He proposed the tectogene hypothesis to explain the belts of negative gravity anomalies that were found near island arcs. According to this hypothesis, the belts were zones of downwelling of light crustal rock arising from subcrustal convection currents. The tectogene hypothesis was further developed by Griggs in 1939, using an analogue model based on a pair of rotating drums. Harry Hammond Hess substantially revised the theory based on his geological analysis.[17]

World War II in the Pacific led to bully improvements of bathymetry, particularly in the western Pacific, and the linear nature of these deeps became clear. The rapid growth of deep sea research efforts, particularly the widespread utilise of echosounders in the 1950s and 1960s, confirmed the morphological utility of the term. Of import trenches were identified, sampled, and mapped via sonar. The early phase of trench exploration reached its summit with the 1960 descent of the Bathyscaphe
to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. Post-obit Robert Due south. Dietz’ and Harry Hess’ promulgation of the seafloor spreading hypothesis in the early 1960s and the plate tectonic revolution in the late 1960s, the oceanic trench became an important concept in plate tectonic theory.[11]



The Peru–Chile Trench is located just left of the precipitous line between the blueish deep sea (on the left) and the low-cal blueish continental shelf, along the west coast of Southward America. It runs along an oceanic-continental boundary, where the oceanic Nazca Plate subducts below the continental South American Plate

Oceanic trenches are 50 to 100 kilometers (xxx to 60 mi) broad and have an asymmetric Five-shape, with the steeper slope (8 to 20 degrees) on the inner (overriding) side of the trench and the gentler slope (around 5 degrees) on the outer (subducting) side of the trench.[18]
The bottom of the trench marks the purlieus betwixt the subducting and overriding plates, known as the basal plate boundary shear[20]
or the subduction décollement.[two]
The depth of the trench depends on the starting depth of the oceanic lithosphere as information technology begins its plunge into the trench, the bending at which the slab plunges, and the corporeality of sedimentation in the trench. Both starting depth and subduction angle are greater for older oceanic lithosphere, which is reflected in the deep trenches of the western Pacific. Here the bottoms of the Marianas and the Tonga-Kermadec trenches are upward to 10–11 kilometers (6.two–6.8 mi) below sea level. In the eastern Pacific, where the subducting oceanic lithosphere is much younger, the depth of the Peru-Chile trench is around 7 to 8 kilometers (iv.3 to v.0 mi).[21]

Though narrow, oceanic trenches are remarkably long and continuous, forming the largest linear depressions on earth. An individual trench can be thousands of kilometers long.[iii]
Most trenches are convex towards the subducting slab, which is attributed to the spherical geometry of the Earth.[22]

The trench disproportion reflects the unlike physical mechanisms that make up one’s mind the inner and outer slope angle. The outer slope angle of the trench is determined by the bending radius of the subducting slab, every bit determined past its rubberband thickness. Since oceanic lithosphere thickens with historic period, the outer gradient bending is ultimately determined by the historic period of the subducting slab.[23]
The inner slope angle is determined by the bending of placidity of the overriding plate edge.[20]
This reflects frequent earthquakes forth the trench that prevent oversteepening of the inner slope.[2]

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Equally the subducting plate approaches the trench, information technology bends slightly upwards before beginning its plunge into the depths. As a result, the outer trench slope is divisional by an
outer trench high. This is subtle, oft just tens of meters loftier, and is typically located a few tens of kilometers from the trench axis. On the outer slope itself, where the plate begins to bend downwards into the trench, the upper part of the subducting slab is broken by bending faults that requite the outer trench slope a horst and graben topography. The formation of these bending faults is suppressed where oceanic ridges or large seamounts are subducting into the trench, but the angle faults cut right beyond smaller seamounts. Where the subducting slab is only thinly veneered with sediments, the outer slope will frequently show seafloor spreading ridges oblique to the horst and graben ridges.[20]



Trench morphology is strongly modified past the corporeality of sedimentation in the trench. This varies from practically no sedimentation, every bit in the Tonga-Kermadec trench, to most completely filled with sediments, as with the southern Bottom Antilles trench or the eastern Alaskan trench. Sedimentation is largely controlled by whether the trench is near a continental sediment source.[22]
The range of sedimentation is well illustrated past the Chilean trench. The north Chile portion of the trench, which lies along the Atacama Desert with its very dull rate of weathering, is sediment-starved, with from 20 to a few hundred meters of sediments on the trench floor. The tectonic morphology of this trench segment is fully exposed on the bounding main bottom. The central Chile segment of the trench is moderately sedimented, with sediments onlapping onto pelagic sediments or bounding main basement of the subducting slab, simply the trench morphology is withal clearly discernible. The southern Chile segment of the trench is fully sedimented, to the signal where the outer rise and gradient are no longer discernible. Other fully sedimented trenches include the Makran Trough, where sediments are upwards to 7.five kilometers (4.seven mi) thick; the Cascadia subduction zone, which is completed buried past 3 to four kilometers (1.ix to 2.5 mi) of sediments; and the northernmost Sumatra subduction zone, which is cached under vi kilometers (3.seven mi) of sediments.[24]

Sediments are sometimes transported along the axis of an oceanic trench. The central Republic of chile trench experiences send of sediments from source fans forth an axial aqueduct.[25]
Like transport of sediments has been documented in the Aleutian trench.[2]

In addition to sedimentation from rivers draining into a trench, sedimentation as well takes identify from landslides on the tectonically steepened inner gradient, ofttimes driven past megathrust earthquakes. The Reloca Slide of the cardinal Chile trench is an example of this process.[26]

Erosive versus accretionary margins


Convergent margins are classified equally erosive or accretionary, and this has a strong influence on the morphology of the inner slope of the trench. Erosive margins, such as the northern Peru-Chile, Tonga-Kermadec, and Mariana trenches, correspond to sediment-starved trenches.[3]
The subducting slab erodes material from the lower part of the overriding slab, reducing its volume. The edge of the slab experiences subsidence and steepening, with normal faulting. The slope is underlain by relative strong igneous and metamorphic rock, which maintains a high angle of repose.[27]
Over half of all convergent margins are erosive margins.[2]

Accretionary margins, such as the southern Peru-Chile, Cascadia, and Aleutians, are associated with moderately to heavily sedimented trenches. As the slab subducts, sediments are “bulldozed” onto the edge of the overriding plate, producing an
accretionary wedge
accretionary prism. This builds the overriding plate outwards. Considering the sediments lack strength, their angle of repose is gentler than the rock making up the inner slope of erosive margin trenches. The inner slope is underlain by imbricated thrust sheets of sediments. The inner slope topography is roughened by localized mass wasting.[27]
Cascadia has practically no bathymetric expression of the outer rise and trench, due to complete sediment filling, but the inner trench slope is complex, with many thrust ridges. These compete with canyon germination by rivers draining into the trench. Inner trench slopes of erosive margins rarely show thrust ridges.[19]

Accretionary prisms abound in ii ways. The first is by frontal accession, in which sediments are scraped off the downgoing plate and emplaced at the front of the accretionary prism.[2]
As the accretionary wedge grows, older sediments further from the trench get increasingly lithified, and faults and other structural features are steepened by rotation towards the trench.[28]
The other mechanism for accretionary prism growth is underplating[ii]
(as well known as basal accretion[29]) of subducted sediments, together with some oceanic crust, along the shallow parts of the subduction decollement. The Franciscan Group of California is interpreted as an ancient accretionary prism in which underplating is recorded as tectonic mélanges and duplex structures.[two]



Frequent megathrust earthquakes modify the inner gradient of the trench by triggering massive landslides. These get out semicircular landslide scarps with slopes of up to twenty degrees on the headwalls and sidewalls.[30]

Subduction of seamounts and aseismic ridges into the trench may increase aseismic creep and reduce the severity of earthquakes. Contrariwise, subduction of large amounts of sediments may allow ruptures along the subduction décollement to propagate for great distances to produce megathrust earthquakes.[31]

Trench rollback


Trenches seem positionally stable over time, but scientists believe that some trenches—particularly those associated with subduction zones where two oceanic plates converge—move backward into the subducting plate.[32]
This is chosen
trench rollback
hinge retreat
hinge rollback) and is one explanation for the existence of back-arc basins.

Forces perpendicular to the slab (the portion of the subducting plate within the drape) are responsible for steepening of the slab and, ultimately, the motion of the hinge and trench at the surface.[34]
These forces arise from the negative buoyancy of the slab with respect to the drapery[35]
modified by the geometry of the slab itself.[36]
The extension in the overriding plate, in response to the subsequent subhorizontal mantle flow from the deportation of the slab, tin can result in formation of a dorsum-arc bowl.[37]

Processes involved


Several forces are involved in the process of slab rollback. 2 forces acting against each other at the interface of the two subducting plates exert forces confronting ane some other. The subducting plate exerts a bending force (FPB) that supplies pressure during subduction, while the overriding plate exerts a strength against the subducting plate (FTS). The slab pull force (FSP) is caused by the negative buoyancy of the plate driving the plate to greater depths. The resisting force from the surrounding mantle opposes the slab pull forces. Interactions with the 660-km discontinuity cause a deflection due to the buoyancy at the phase transition (F660).[36]
The unique interplay of these forces is what generates slab rollback. When the deep slab section obstructs the down-going motion of the shallow slab department, slab rollback occurs. The subducting slab undergoes backward sinking due to the negative buoyancy forces causing a retrogradation of the trench swivel forth the surface. Upwelling of the mantle effectually the slab tin can create favorable conditions for the formation of a back-arc basin.[37]

Seismic tomography provides evidence for slab rollback. Results demonstrate high temperature anomalies inside the curtain suggesting subducted material is present in the drape.[38]
Ophiolites are viewed every bit show for such mechanisms as high pressure level and temperature rocks are rapidly brought to the surface through the processes of slab rollback, which provides space for the exhumation of ophiolites.

Slab rollback is non always a continuous procedure suggesting an episodic nature.[35]
The episodic nature of the rollback is explained past a change in the density of the subducting plate, such as the inflow of buoyant lithosphere (a continent, arc, ridge, or plateau), a modify in the subduction dynamics, or a change in the plate kinematics. The age of the subducting plates does non have any effect on slab rollback.[36]
Nearby continental collisions have an upshot on slab rollback. Continental collisions induce mantle flow and extrusion of mantle cloth, which causes stretching and arc-trench rollback.[37]
In the area of the Southeast Pacific, there take been several rollback events resulting in the germination of numerous back-arc basins.[35]

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Drape interactions


Interactions with the mantle discontinuities play a significant role in slab rollback. Stagnation at the 660-km discontinuity causes retrograde slab move due to the suction forces acting at the surface.[36]
Slab rollback induces drapery return menses, which causes extension from the shear stresses at the base of the overriding plate. As slab rollback velocities increase, circular mantle flow velocities also increase, accelerating extension rates.[34]
Extension rates are altered when the slab interacts with the discontinuities within the curtain at 410 km and 660 km depth. Slabs tin can either penetrate direct into the lower pall, or can be retarded due to the stage transition at 660 km depth creating a difference in buoyancy. An increase in retrograde trench migration (slab rollback) (two–4 cm/yr) is a issue of flattened slabs at the 660-km discontinuity where the slab does not penetrate into the lower drapery.[39]
This is the case for the Japan, Java and Izu–Bonin trenches. These flattened slabs are only temporarily arrested in the transition zone. The subsequent displacement into the lower drapery is caused by slab pull forces, or the destabilization of the slab from warming and broadening due to thermal improvidence. Slabs that penetrate directly into the lower curtain issue in slower slab rollback rates (~ane–3 cm/yr) such equally the Mariana arc, Tonga arcs.[39]

Hydrothermal activity and associated biomes


As sediments are subducted at the lesser of trenches, much of their fluid content is expelled and moves back along the subduction décollement to emerge on the inner slope as mud volcanoes and cold seeps. Methane clathrates and gas hydrates also accumulate in the inner slope, and there is concern that their breakdown could contribute to global warming.[ii]

The fluids released at mud volcanoes and cold seeps are rich in marsh gas and hydrogen sulfide, providing chemical energy for chemotrophic microorganisms that form the base of a unique trench biome. Cold seep communities take been identified in the inner trench slopes of the western Pacific (especially Nihon[forty]), South America, Barbados, the Mediterranean, Makran, and the Sunda trench. These are found at depths as peachy as six,000 meters (20,000 ft).[2]
The genome of the extremophile
from Challenger Deep has sequenced for its ecological insights and potential industrial uses.[41]

Because trenches are the lowest points in the ocean flooring, in that location is business that plastic debris may accumulate in trenches and endanger the fragile trench biomes.[42]

Deepest oceanic trenches


Recent measurements, where the salinity and temperature of the water was measured throughout the dive, accept uncertainties of about xv thousand (49 ft).[43]
Older measurements may be off by hundreds of meters.

Trench Ocean Lowest Point Maximum Depth Source
Mariana Trench Pacific Ocean Challenger Deep x,920 m (35,830 ft) [43]
Tonga Trench Pacific Ocean Horizon Deep x,820 m (35,500 ft) [43]
Philippine Trench Pacific Bounding main Emden Deep ten,540 thou (34,580 ft) [44]
Kuril–Kamchatka Trench Pacific Ocean x,542 chiliad (34,587 ft) [44]
Kermadec Trench Pacific Ocean ten,047 chiliad (32,963 ft) [44]
Izu–Bonin Trench (Izu–Ogasawara Trench) Pacific Ocean 9,810 m (32,190 ft) [44]
New Britain Trench Pacific Ocean (Solomon Bounding main) Planet Deep ix,140 k (29,990 ft) [45]
Puerto Rico Trench Atlantic Ocean Brownson Deep 8,380 chiliad (27,490 ft) [43]
South Sandwich Trench Atlantic Sea Meteor Deep 8,265 m (27,116 ft) [43]
Peru–Chile Trench or Atacama Trench Pacific Ocean Richards Deep eight,055 chiliad (26,427 ft) [44]
Nippon Trench Pacific Bounding main 8,412 m (27,598 ft) [44]

Notable oceanic trenches


Trench Location
Aleutian Trench South of the Aleutian Islands, due west of Alaska
Bougainville Trench South of New Republic of guinea
Cayman Trench Western Caribbean
Cedros Trench (inactive) Pacific declension of Baja California
Hikurangi Trench Due east of New Zealand
Hjort Trench Southwest of New Zealand
Izu–Ogasawara Trench Almost Izu and Bonin islands
Japan Trench Eastward of Japan
Kermadec Trench * Northeast of New Zealand
Kuril–Kamchatka Trench * Almost Kuril islands
Manila Trench W of Luzon, Philippines
Mariana Trench * Western Pacific Bounding main; east of Mariana Islands
Eye America Trench Eastern Pacific Sea; off coast of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
New Hebrides Trench W of Vanuatu (New Hebrides Islands).
Peru–Republic of chile Trench Eastern Pacific Body of water; off coast of Peru & Chile
Philippine Trench * East of the Philippines
Puerto Rico Trench Purlieus of Caribbean and Atlantic bounding main
Puysegur trench Southwest of New Zealand
Ryukyu Trench Eastern edge of Nihon’s Ryukyu Islands
South Sandwich Trench Due east of the South Sandwich Islands
Sunda Trench Curves from southward of Java to due west of Sumatra and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Tonga Trench * Near Tonga
Yap Trench Western Pacific Sea; between Palau Islands and Mariana Trench

(*) The five deepest trenches in the earth

Ancient oceanic trenches


Trench Location
Intermontane Trench Western North America; between the Intermontane Islands and N America
Insular Trench Western North America; betwixt the Insular Islands and the Intermontane Islands
Farallon Trench Western North America
Tethyan Trench South of Turkey, Iran, Tibet and Southeast Asia

Meet also


  • List of landforms
  • List of submarine topographical features
  • Mid-ocean ridge
  • Physical oceanography
  • Ring of Fire



  1. ^

    Rowley 2002.
  2. ^





    due east









    Stern 2005.
  3. ^





    Kearey, Klepeis & Vine 2009, p. 250.
  4. ^



    Harris et al. 2014.

  5. ^

    Dastanpour 1996.

  6. ^

    Thomas, Burbidge & Cummins 2007.

  7. ^

    Goldfinger et al. 2012.

  8. ^

    Westbrook, Mascle & Biju-Duval 1984.

  9. ^

    Hackney, Sutherland & Collot 2012.

  10. ^

    Einsele 2000.
  11. ^




    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018.

  12. ^

    Eiseley 1946.

  13. ^

    Weyl 1969, p. 49.

  14. ^

    Thomson & Murray 1895.

  15. ^

    McConnell 1990.

  16. ^

    Johnstone 1923.

  17. ^

    Allwrardt 1993.

  18. ^

    Kearey, Klepeis & Vine 2009, pp. 250–251.
  19. ^



    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018, p. 420.
  20. ^





    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018, pp. 411–412.

  21. ^

    Kearey, Klepeis & Vine 2009, pp. =250-251.
  22. ^



    Kearey, Klepeis & Vine 2009, p. 251.

  23. ^

    Bodine & Watts 1979.

  24. ^

    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018, pp. 412–416.

  25. ^

    Völker et al. 2013.

  26. ^

    Völker et al. 2009.
  27. ^



    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018, p. 416.

  28. ^

    Kearey, Klepeis & Vine 2009, pp. 264–266.

  29. ^

    Bangs et al. 2020.

  30. ^

    Völker et al. 2014.

  31. ^

    Geersen, Voelker & Behrmann 2018, p. 421.

  32. ^

    Dvorkin et al. 1993.

  33. ^

    Garfunkel, Anderson & Schubert 1986.
  34. ^



    Schellart & Moresi 2013.
  35. ^




    Schellart, Lister & Toy 2006.
  36. ^





    Nakakuki & Mura 2013.
  37. ^




    Bloom & Dilek 2003.

  38. ^

    Hall & Spakman 2002.
  39. ^



    Christensen 1996.

  40. ^

    Fujikura et al. 2010.

  41. ^

    Zhang et al. 2021.

  42. ^

    Peng et al. 2020.
  43. ^






    Amos 2021.
  44. ^







    Jamieson et al.

  45. ^

    Gallo et al. 2015.



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External links


  • “HADEX: Research project to explore ocean trenches”.
    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

  • “Body of water Trenches”.
    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Read:   Explain How Soil is Important to Animal Life

Which Event Causes the Formation of Trenches in Earth’s Crust

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_trench

Originally posted 2022-08-05 09:26:12.

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