Lijun Liu

Lijun Liu
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | UIUC · Department of Geology

PhD Caltech

About

109
Publications
39,690
Reads
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2,533
Citations
Introduction
I am interested in the dynamic evolution of the solid Earth. An important research tool my group uses is large-scale geodynamic models with data-assimilation using supercomputers. These models are promising for solving complex Earth processes. Currently, there are several research projects going on, including those listed on the left. Note: We always welcome motivated and talented students to join our research group!
Additional affiliations
August 2021 - present
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Position
  • Professor (Full)
June 2017 - July 2021
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
August 2012 - June 2017
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
Education
August 2005 - June 2010
California Institute of Technology
Field of study
  • Geophysics

Publications

Publications (109)
Article
The widespread Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous (J2-K1) intraplate tectonism of East Asia has recently been proposed to reflect the flat subduction of the Izanagi plate, whose mechanism, however, remains poorly constrained. Here, we compare these geological records with those within the western United States (U.S.) during the Laramide flat subdu...
Article
East Asia is characterized by an east-west topographic dichotomy on the two sides of the North-South Gravity Lineament (NSGL), a feature not associated with major basement boundaries. The NSGL also marks an abrupt change in the thickness of the continental crust and the lithospheric mantle, as well as that in the associated residual topography. Bot...
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Three different conceptual models have been proposed for the Cenozoic subduction style in South Asia, including Greater India, Intra-oceanic Arc, and Continental Terrane (or Greater Indian basin). Since these models imply distinctive origins for the Tethyan–Greater Himalayan (TGH) sequences, for example, as a relic of the subducted Greater India or...
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The extensive fast seismic anomalies in the mantle transition zone beneath East Asia are often interpreted as stagnant Pacific slabs, and a reason for the widespread tectonics since the Mesozoic. Previous hypotheses for their formation mostly emphasize vertical resistances to slab penetration or trench retreat. In this study, we investigate the ori...
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The existence of historical flat slabs remains debated. We evaluate past subduction since 200 Ma using global models with data assimilation. By reproducing major Mesozoic slabs whose dip angles satisfy geological constraints, the model suggests a previously unrecognized continental‐scale flat slab during the Late Cretaceous beneath East Asia, a res...
Preprint
The nature of the lost lithosphere that subducted between India and Tibet since the Paleocene remains controversial, with existing propositions including it being either entirely continental, oceanic, or a mixture of the two. As the subduction history of this lost lithosphere strongly controlled Tibetan intraplate tectonism, we attempt to further c...
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Recent tomography-based tectonic (tomotectonic) reconstructions provide important new insights on past subduction processes. However, some of these exercises violate key geological observations. We suggest this is due to two common assumptions: 1) slabs sink vertically after subduction with their present geographic locations marking past trenches,...
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East Asia is exceptionally rich in diverse geological phenomena related to processes of major global significance in Earth history. Its tectonic evolution is closely related to the subduction of the Izanagi and Pacific plates and the India-Eurasia collision. Thus, this domain presents a vast natural laboratory within which some of the most topical...
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The density structure of the cratonic lithospheric mantle (CLM) remains debated. We suggest that one important reason for which many geodynamic studies favor neutrally buoyant CLM is that they adopted separate reference frames when estimating the isostatic effects of continental and oceanic lithosphere, while instead a globally consistent one shoul...
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Growth of the Andes has been attributed to Cenozoic subduction. Although climatic and tectonic processes have been proposed to be first-order mechanisms, their interaction and respective contributions remain largely unclear. Here, we apply three-dimensional, fully-dynamic subduction models to investigate the effect of trench-axial sediment transpor...
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The crustal stress field determines continental deformation, including intraplate seismicity and topographic undulations. However, the sources of observed crustal stress patterns remain debated, with proposed mechanisms including lateral variations in gravitational potential energy and mantle flow, the latter of which comprises plate boundary inter...
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Magmatism has occurred throughout Earth's history. From the early Earth to the modern plate-tectonic Earth, the amount of magmatism has varied, but it has always occurred on multiple scales, in various tectonic environments and at various depths in the crust and mantle. Magma compositions also vary. In this paper, we argue that the mechanism of mag...
Article
The spatial and temporal interaction of rifting at the northern South China Sea (SCS) margin and shearing along Red River Fault Zone (RRFZ) is crucial to understanding the regional geodynamics. Their obscure relationship has led to controversial models for the origin of the Beibu Gulf basin within the northeast edge of the SCS. Newly released seism...
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Oceanic lithosphere descends into Earth’s mantle at subduction zones and drives material exchange between Earth’s surface and its deep interior. The subduction process creates chemical and thermal heterogeneities in the mantle, with the strongest gradients located at the interfaces between subducted slabs and the surrounding mantle. Seismic imaging...
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Transient intraplate sedimentation like the widespread Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, traditionally considered a flexural foreland basin of the Sevier orogeny, is now generally accepted to be a result of dynamic topography due to the viscous force from mantle downwelling. However, the relative contributions of flexural versus dynamic subs...
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The Tibetan crust is sliced by several east–west trending suture zones. The role of these suture zones in the evolution of the Himalayan range and Tibetan plateau remains unclear. Here we use 3-D thermomechanical simulations to investigate the role of pre-existing weak zones within the Asian Plate in the formation of orogen and plateau growth durin...
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板块构造是指地球外壳岩石圈块体在地球表面的(水平)运动及其相互作用。自50年前板块构造理论建立以来,对板块运动的动力来源这一问题一直存在争议。早期的观点认为是“Bottom up”机制,即板块运动受控于板块之下的地幔对流系统,特别是起源于核幔边界的地幔柱作用于板块底部,促使大陆裂解,并驱动板块运动。而现今较为普遍接受的观点则是“Top down”机制,即认为板块运动的驱动力主要来源于板块自身的负浮力,板块构造和地幔对流均受控于板块的俯冲作用,因此板块构造又被称为俯冲构造。这一观点得到了众多地质和地球物理观测的支持。进一步研究表明,个别板块增速、减速与单一地幔柱活动在百万年时间尺度具有耦合关系;多个板块内稳定克拉通地区地表隆升、沉积速率与地幔柱相关的岩浆活动在亿年时间尺度存在时空相关性;而全球...
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The stress state and its dynamic background of East Asia, especially that during the late Mesozoic, remain controversial. We analyze the structural evolution of the Bohai Bay Basin (BBB) and it relationship with the regional tectonic history of East Asia. In particular, we focus on the central BBB NW-trending faults that have received little attent...
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The Earth’s surface is characterized by a bi-modal distribution of topography, where continents on average are about 5 km higher than the ocean basins. This basic topographic property of the planet Earth could be intuitively explained by isostasy, in that the felsic-to-intermediate continental crust is thick (~40 km) and light (~2.8 g/cm3) while th...
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Plate tectonics describes the horizontal motions of lithospheric plates, the Earth’s outer shell, and interactions among them across the Earth’s surface. Since the establishment of the theory of plate tectonics about half a century ago, considerable debates have remained regarding the driving forces for plate motion. The early “Bottom up” view, i.e...
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It remains unclear why some cratonic lithospheres like the North China Craton (NCC) have undergone significant thinning and catastrophic destruction. Here we provide evidence for a dense Phanerozoic cratonic keel beneath the NCC that provides a reason for the craton destruction during the late Mesozoic. We observed two long‐lasting (>100 Myr) episo...
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The stress field in the eastern United States is commonly considered to be broadly uniform and due to homogeneous far‐field forces; however, modern and geologic stress indicators in this region show substantial heterogeneity. Using CitcomS to model stresses based on simple input density, temperature, and viscosity fields, we show that local isostas...
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We used a newly developed Pn tomography method to obtain high‐resolution uppermost mantle velocity and anisotropy structures beneath the Northwest Pacific region. The observed Pn velocities are consistent with the local tectonic background, where high Pn velocities are observed beneath the Japan Trench area and Songliao Basin, and low Pn velocities...
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Both the surface processes associated with large intracontinental basins and their underlying geodynamic mechanisms remain unclear. Proposed models include flexural deformation due to orogenic loading, isostatic subsidence in response to lithosphere extension, and dynamic subsidence arising from sublithospheric mantle downwelling. Here we use forwa...
Article
The origin of the high topography within the western United States has been attributed to either crustal/lithospheric isostasy or dynamic topography, but their relative contributions remain unconstrained. Here we investigate this problem using gravity, residual topography and geodynamic modeling. We first evaluate two end-member scenarios of isosta...
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In the version of this Article originally published, a thick, white line indicating the mid-lithosphere discontinuity was missing from Fig. 5a. Additionally, in Fig. 5c, where two foundered lithosphere piles are depicted, the colours of the pile on the right were inverted. These errors have now been corrected in all online versions of the Article.
Article
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In the version of this Article originally published, data points representing mafic eruptions were missing from Fig. 4b, the corrected version is shown below. Furthermore, the authors omitted to include the following acknowledgements to the provider of the computational resources: “This research is part of the Blue Waters sustained-petascale comput...
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The longevity of cratons is generally attributed to persistence of neutrally-to-positively buoyant and mechanically strong lithosphere that shields the cratonic crust from underlying mantle dynamics. Here we show that large portions of the cratonic lithosphere in South America and Africa, however, experienced significant modification during and sin...
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The driving forces of plate motion, especially that of its sudden change over time, has long been debated. During the closure of an old ocean, the subduction process of the mid-ocean ridge provides valuable clues to quantitative evaluation of the driving forces of plate tectonics. Here we show that the drifting rates of the Indian plate were correl...
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The origin of late Cenozoic intraplate volcanism over the western United States is debated. One important reason is the lack of a clear understanding of the mantle dynamics during this volcanic history. Here we reconstruct the mantle thermal states beneath North America since 20 million years ago using a hybrid inverse geodynamic model with data as...
Article
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Plate subduction drives both the internal convection and the surface geology of the solid Earth. Despite the rapid increase of computational power, it remains challenging for geodynamic models to reproduce the history of Earth-like subduction and associated mantle flow. Here, based on an adaptive approach of sequential data assimilation, we present...
Article
Quantifying past mantle dynamic processes represents a major challenge in understanding the temporal evolution of the solid earth. Mantle convection modeling with data assimilation is one of the most powerful tools to investigate the dynamics of plate subduction and mantle convection. Although various data assimilation methods, both forward and inv...
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The formation of the Tibetan plateau during the India-Asia collision remains an outstanding issue. Proposed models mostly focus on the different styles of Tibetan crustal deformation, yet these do not readily explain the observed variation of deformation and deep structures along the collisional zone. Here we use three-dimensional numerical models...
Article
Seismic anisotropy records both the past and present deformation inside the solid Earth. In the mantle, seismic anisotropy is mainly attributed to the lattice preferred orientation (LPO) of mineral fabrics, caused by the shear deformation due to mantle flow. However, contributions from different tectonic processes remain debated, and a single geody...
Article
Seismic anisotropy records both the past and present deformation inside the solid Earth. In the mantle, seismic anisotropy is mainly attributed to the lattice preferred orientation (LPO) of mineral fabrics, caused by the shear deformation due to mantle flow. However, contributions from different tectonic processes remain debated, and a single geody...
Article
An accurate viscosity structure is critical to truthfully modeling lithosphere dynamics. Here, we report an attempt to infer the effective lithospheric viscosity from a high-resolution magnetotelluric (MT) survey across the western United States. The high sensitivity of MT fields to the presence of electrically conductive fluids makes it a promisin...
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The formation mechanisms of flat slabs in South America remain unclear. To quantitatively evaluate the earlier proposed mechanisms, we simulate the post-100 Ma subduction history below South America using 4-D geodynamic models by progressively incorporating plate kinematics, seafloor ages and key tectonic features including the buoyant oceanic crus...
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Dynamic topography of the Earth’s surface occurs in response to hydrodynamic stresses due to mantle flow beneath a flexible lithosphere. Here we compare the predicted dynamic topography from an inverse-convection model that includes flat-slab subduction with the known geologic history of the western U.S from Late Cretaceous through Paleocene time t...
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The origin of the Yellowstone volcanic province remains debated. Proposed hypotheses involve either a mantle plume or not. Recent tomographic images allow a quantitative evaluation of the plume hypothesis and its interaction with the Farallon slabs. Using 4-D geodynamic models with data assimilation, we find that the slab is always in the way of th...
Conference Paper
An uncertain viscosity structure is a major impediment to correctly modeling the behavior and evolution of the lithosphere. This problem is particularly acute at the sub-100 km scale where active deformation and volcanism occur. Here we report an attempt to infer the effective lithospheric viscosity from a high-resolution magnetotelluric (MT) surve...
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The driving force for transient vertical motions of Earth’s surface remains an outstanding question. A main difficulty lies in the uncertain role of the underlying mantle, especially during the geological past. Here I review previous studies on both observational constraints and physical mechanisms of North American topographic evolution since the...
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The origin of forces for generating deep earthquakes remains elusive. We propose a new mechanical model that involves constant release of shear strain accumulated between the crust and mantle lithosphere caused by differential volume changes during phase transformations as a slab sinks. This generates increasing down-dip compression inside the slab...
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Uncertainties in the origin and composition of oceanic asthenosphere lead to different views on its temporal evolution upon subduction. We investigate the evolution of asthenosphere material during subduction using high-resolution geodynamic models. In contrast to some earlier models suggesting that limited amount of asthenosphere material can be e...