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TOPO-4D - Mantle forcing of Earth surface evolution in Europe and the Mediterranean: From Past to Present (IP5)

English title TOPO-4D - Mantle forcing of Earth surface evolution in Europe and the Mediterranean: From Past to Present (IP5)
Applicant Tackley Paul
Number 120535
Funding scheme Project funding (special)
Research institution Institut für Geophysik ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Geochemistry
Start/End 01.08.2008 - 31.10.2011
Approved amount 301'450.00
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Keywords (8)

mantle convection; lithosphere-mantle interation; topography; Mediterranean; surface topography; subduction; europe; plate tectonics

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
The aim of the project is to understand the influence of mantle flow on the evolution of topography in Europe and the Mediterranean region. Surface deformation, in particular the evolution of topography, results from a complex coupled dynamic system in which mantle processes such as global mantle currents, plate subduction and collision, interact with surface processes such as erosion, sedimentation, sea-level change, or (de)glaciation. The impact of mantle processes on surface deformation is conceptually well understood but lacks a thorough, quantitative knowledge. As a result, it is in many cases impossible to discriminate between mantle-induced and surface-induced contributions to surface deformation. The European-Mediterranean region is a well-studied natural laboratory for which progress can now be made on this topic, and this is what our research project, which is part of a collaboration between ETH Zürich and the Universities of Utrecht, Oslo, Rome, and Bochum, aims at. At ETH we will study topographic development driven by slab-slab and slab-asthenosphere interaction. This will be investigated using four-dimensional (i.e., three spatial dimensions plus time) numerical modelling. Regional models will investigate the interactions of mantle currents with subduction zones in different geodynamic settings (subduction,collision, slab retreat and detachment). These models will include realistic visco-elasto-plastic rheology, a free erosion-sedimentation surface, thermodynamically-calculated phase transitions and water transport above slabs. The results will be applied to understand specific key regions in Europe, including the Alps-Carpathian-Dinarides-Apennines. The general relationship between continental topography, plate tectonics and mantle dynamics will be studied using global 3D spherical time-dependent models of free convection with realistic P-T-stress-dependent visco-plastic rheology that allows spontaneous plate generation and gives a low-viscosity asthenosphere. These will extend previous models from the group by including compositionally- and rheologically-distinct continents. These two modelling efforts will help to answer question such as: How strong is the effect of large-scale mantle currents on subduction dynamics? How is the evolution of mantle currents affected by the presence of chemically and rheologically distinct continents? Why are continents and Europe in particular uplifted? Why do orogens vertically and laterally grow at different rates? What determines the variable subsidence rates in foredeep basins and rifting areas? Can a global lithospheric mean flow arise through the interaction of plates and continents with convection, and if so, what is its effect on subduction zones and topographic evolution?
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
138233 Mantle forcing of Earth surface evolution in Europe and the Mediterranean: From past to present (TOPO-4D) IP-5: The influence of mantle currents on the evolution of topography associated with slabs 01.11.2011 Project funding