Thorsten Becker

Thorsten Becker
University of Texas at Austin | UT · Institute for Geophysics

PhD
Working on fault and mantle dynamics, trying to figure out how planets' interior and surface have co-evolved.

About

307
Publications
72,726
Reads
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10,317
Citations
Introduction
My main research interests are in geodynamics and seismology, focusing on how planets' interior and surface systems have co-evolved. Our group integrates field, laboratory, analog, and numerical approaches into geodynamical models, focusing on the physics of plate tectonics, from grain-scale deformation to plate-scale flow.
Additional affiliations
March 2021 - present
University of Texas at Austin
Position
  • Faculty Associate
May 2016 - May 2021
University of Texas at Austin
Position
  • Chair
September 2012 - May 2016
University of Southern California
Position
  • Professor
Education
September 1997 - June 2002
Harvard University
Field of study
  • Geophysics
September 1992 - June 1997

Publications

Publications (307)
Article
Megathrust systems hold important clues for our understanding of long- and short-term plate boundary dynamics, and the 2011 M9 Tohoku-oki earthquake provides a data-rich case in point. Here, we show that the F-net moment tensor catalog indicates systematic changes in crustal stress in the years leading up to the M9, due to the co-seismic effect, an...
Article
rogeny results from crustal thickening at active margins, and much progress has been made on understanding the associated kinematics. However, the ultimate cause of orogeny is still debated, especially for the case of extreme crustal thickening. Inspired by the seminal work of Holmes (1931), we explore the connections between the style of orogeny a...
Article
Full-text available
Plain Language Summary At subduction zones, an oceanic plate dives into the mantle below another plate. The downgoing plate is usually covered by sediments. These sediments can be carried down to depth along the interface and/or scraped off the top of the downgoing plate and appended to the edge of the upper plate, forming an accretionary wedge. Se...
Article
Full-text available
The spatial distribution of the geochemical domains hosting recycled crust and primordial (high-3He/4 He) reservoirs, and how they are linked to mantle convection, are poorly understood. Two continent-sized seismic anomalies located near the core-mantle boundary—called the Large Low Shear Wave Velocity Provinces (LLSVPs)—are potential geochemical r...
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding the temporal variability of plate tectonics is key to unraveling how mantle convection transports heat, and one critical factor for the formation and evolution of plate boundaries is rheological “memory”, i.e. the persistence of weak zones. Here, we analyze the impact of such damage memory in global, oceanic-lithosphere-only models of...
Article
Full-text available
Plain Language Summary The main driving force of mantle convection is the subduction of cold, lithospheric slabs. Mantle plumes that rise from the bottom of the mantle are typically not considered as important to plate tectonics, even though they have been suggested to initiate subduction, for example, here, we use 2‐D computer models of mantle con...
Preprint
Full-text available
Whether mechanical anisotropy is required to explain the dynamics of the lithosphere, in particular near fault zones where it may affect loading stresses, is an important yet open question. If anisotropy affects deformation, how can we quantify its role from observations? Here, we derive analytical solutions and build a theoretical framework to exp...
Preprint
Full-text available
We look at the effect of mantle plume interaction with subduction zones in numerical models and find that mantle plumes are capable of influencing subduction, even to the point of shutting off subduction.
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding the temporal variability of plate tectonics is key to unraveling how mantle convection transports heat, and one critical factor for the formation and evolution of plate boundaries is rheological “memory”, i.e. the persistence of weak zones. Here, we analyze the impact of such damage memory in global, oceanic-lithosphere-only models of...
Article
Full-text available
Tectonic plate motions predominantly result from a balance between the potential energy change of the subducting slab and viscous dissipation in the mantle, bending lithosphere and slab-upper plate interface. A wide range of observations from active subduction zones and exhumed rocks suggest that subduction interface shear zone rheology is sensitiv...
Article
Full-text available
Plain Language Summary Thank you to the 164 people who reviewed manuscripts for AGU Advances in 2021.
Article
Full-text available
We introduce a new finite-element (FE) based computational framework to solve forward and inverse elastic deformation problems for earthquake faulting via the adjoint method. Based on two advanced computational libraries, FEniCS and hIPPYlib for the forward and inverse problems, respectively, this framework is flexible, transparent, and easily exte...
Preprint
Full-text available
We introduce a new finite-element (FE) based computational framework to solve forward and inverse elastic deformation problems for earthquake faulting via the adjoint method. Based on two advanced computational libraries, FEniCS and hIPPYlib for the forward and inverse problems, respectively, this framework is flexible, transparent, and easily exte...
Conference Paper
Plate tectonics is primarily driven by the negative buoyancy of subducting slabs (“slab pull”), potential energy variations due to the thickening of oceanic lithosphere with age (“ridge push”), and forces associated with mantle flow. At present-day, slab pull is thought to be the most important force, accounting for 90% of the plate driving forces....
Article
Full-text available
Subduction is the major plate driving force, and the strength of the subducting plate controls many aspects of the thermochemical evolution of Earth. Each subducting plate experiences intense normal faulting during bending that accommodates the transition from horizontal to downwards motion at the outer rise at trenches. Here we investigate the con...
Article
Full-text available
The style of convective force transmission to plates and strain-localization within and underneath plate boundaries remain debated. To address some of the related issues, we analyze a range of deformation indicators in southern California from the surface to the asthenosphere. Present-day surface strain rates can be inferred from geodesy. At seismo...
Preprint
Full-text available
Tectonic plate motions predominantly result from a balance between the potential energy change of the subducting slab and viscous dissipation in the mantle, bending lithosphere, and slab-upper plate interface. A wide range of observations from active subduction zones and exhumed rocks suggest that subduction interface shear zone rheology is sensiti...
Poster
Full-text available
The style of convective force transmission to plates and strain-localization within and underneath plate boundaries remain debated. To address some of the related issues, we analyze a range of deformation indicators in southern California from the surface to the asthenosphere. Present-day surface strain rates can be inferred from geodesy. At seismo...
Preprint
Full-text available
Subducted sediments are thought to lubricate the subduction interface and promote faster plate speeds. However, global observations are not clear-cut on the relationship between the amount of sediments and plate motion. Sediments are also thought to influence slab dip, but variations in subduction geometry depend on multiple factors. Here we use 2D...
Article
Full-text available
EarthScope's USArray seismic component provided unprecedented coverage of the contiguous US and has therefore spurred significant advances in tomographic imaging and geodynamic modeling. Here, we present a new global, radially anisotropic shear wave velocity tomography model to investigate upper mantle structure and North American plate dynamics, w...
Article
Full-text available
The existence of mantle plumes was first proposed in the 1970s to explain intra-plate, hotspot volcanism, yet owing to difficulties in resolving mantle upwellings with geophysical images and discrepancies in interpretations of geochemical and geochronological data, the origin, dynamics and composition of plumes and their links to plate tectonics ar...
Chapter
Full-text available
Seismic anisotropy records continental dynamics in the crust and convective deformation in the mantle. Deciphering this archive holds huge promise for our understanding of the thermo-chemical evolution of our planet, but doing so is complicated by incomplete imaging and non-unique interpretations. Here, we focus on the upper mantle and review seism...
Article
Full-text available
Thank you to the reviewers of AGU Advances. In 2020, we all faced the enormous and unexpected challenges of the Covid‐19 pandemic, with its host of new and competing demands on our time. Thus, we are especially grateful to the 154 people who provided reviews for AGU Advances and helped our fledgling journal complete its first year. Peer‐review is e...
Article
Full-text available
As individuals serving on the AGU Advances editorial board, we condemn racism, affirm that Black Lives Matter, and recognize that inequality is built into the systems that have allowed us to prosper. We aim to persistently foster discussion about racism, inequity, and the need to make our community more diverse and inclusive. This will help AGU Adv...
Article
Full-text available
From west to east along the Sunda-Banda arc, convergence of the Indo-Australian plate transitions from subduction of oceanic lithosphere to arc-continent collision. This region of eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste provides an opportunity for unraveling the processes that occur during collision between a continent and a volcanic arc, and it can be v...
Article
Full-text available
Strain localization in the lithosphere and the formation, evolution, and maintenance of resulting plate boundaries play a crucial role in plate tectonics and thermo-chemical mantle convection. Previously activated lithospheric deformation zones often appear to maintain a “memory” of weakening, leading to tectonic inheritance within plate reorganiza...
Article
Full-text available
Rare high-3 He/ 4 He signatures in ocean island basalts (OIB) erupted at volcanic hotspots derive from deep-seated domains preserved in Earth's interior. Only high-3 He/ 4 He OIB exhibit anomalous 182 Wan isotopic signature inherited during the earliest history of Earth-supporting an ancient origin of high 3 He/ 4 He. However, it is not understood...
Article
Full-text available
The study of vertical crustal motion in the contiguous United States (CONUS) has traditionally focused on the high amplitude deformation caused by glacial isostatic adjustment. To better understand more subtle vertical crustal motion resulting from other geophysical processes, we take advantage of the ongoing expansion of continuous Global Position...
Preprint
Full-text available
The recycling of oceanic plates by means of subduction represents the major plate driving force and subducting plate strength controls many aspects of the thermo-chemical evolution of Earth. Regardless of its prior history, each subducting plate experiences intense normal faulting1-11 during bending that accommodates the transition from horizontal...
Article
Full-text available
Azimuthal variations in receiver function conversions can image lithospheric structural contrasts and anisotropic fabrics that together compose tectonic grain. We apply this method to data from EarthScope Transportable Array in Alaska and additional stations across the northern Cordillera. The best-resolved quantities are the strike and depth of di...
Article
Full-text available
Members of the editorial board of AGU Advances express their appreciation to those who served as peer reviewers for the journal in its inaugural year.
Presentation
Full-text available
Lecture 2/3 from L. Husson and T. Bodin's summer school in 2019
Article
Full-text available
The Nile is the longest river on Earth and has persisted for millions of years. It has been suggested that the Nile in its present path is ~6 million years old, whereas others argue that it may have formed much earlier in geological history. Here we present geological evidence and geodynamic model results that suggest that the Nile drainage has bee...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We propose herein an approach for reformulating an equation-based modeling algorithm to an algorithm similar to that of training artificial intelligence (AI) and accelerate this algorithm using high-performance accelerators to reduce the huge computational costs encountered for physics equation-based modeling in earthquake disaster mitigation. A fa...
Presentation
Full-text available
Lecture 3/3 from L. Husson and T. Bodin's summer school in 2019
Presentation
Full-text available
Lecture 1/3 from L. Husson and T. Bodin's summer school in 2019
Article
Full-text available
Approaching the 250th anniversary of Alexander von Humboldt’s birth, we look back at the life and legacy of “the most scientific man of his age.”
Article
Full-text available
We use three‐dimensional numerical experiments of thin shell convection to explore what effects an expected latitudinal variation in solar insolation may have on a convection. We find that a global flow pattern of upwelling equatorial regions and downwelling polar regions, linked to higher and lower surface temperatures (Ts), respectively, is prefe...
Article
Full-text available
How plate tectonic surface motions relate to the convecting mantle remains one of the major problems in geosciences. In particular, the cause and consequence of strain localization at plate boundaries remains debated, even though strain memory, that is, the ability to preserve and reactivate tectonic inheritance over geological time, appears to be...
Article
We present a method for constructing the average waveform shape (hereafter called “empirical wavelet”) of seismic shear waves on an event-by-event basis for the purpose of constructing a high-quality travel time data set with information about waveform quality and shape. A global data set was assembled from 360 earthquakes between 1994 and 2017. Th...
Preprint
How plate tectonic surface motions relate to the convecting mantle remains one of the major problems in geosciences. In particular, the cause and consequence of strain localization at plate boundaries remains debated, even though strain memory, i.e. the ability to preserve and reactivate tectonic inheritance over geological time, appears to be a cr...
Preprint
Full-text available
Seismic anisotropy records continental dynamics in the crust andconvective deformation in the mantle. Deciphering this archive holdshuge promise for our understanding of the thermo-chemical evolution ofour planet, but doing so is complicated by incomplete imaging andnon-unique interpretations. Here, we focus on the upper mantle andreview seismologi...
Article
The topographic growth of a mountain belt is commonly attributed to isostatic balance in response to crustal and lithospheric thickening. However, deeper mantle processes may also influence the topography of the Earth. Here, we discuss the role of these processes in the Eastern Cordillera (EC) of Colombia. The EC is an active, double-vergent fold a...
Article
Recent measurements of surface vertical displacements of the European Alps show a correlation between vertical velocities and topographic features, with widespread uplift at rates of up to ~2-2.5 mm/a in the North-Western and Central Alps, and ~1 mm/a across a continuous region from the Eastern to the South-Western Alps. Such a rock uplift rate pat...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We discuss crustal surface velocities in the Gibraltar Arc System derived from around 150 GPS sites in Iberia and Morocco operating between 1995 and 2018. The estimated velocity field shows patterns that are strongly correlated with other geophysical constraints (tomographically imaged velocity anomalies, SKS-splitting, etc.) including seismicity p...