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Beyond ‘crumple zones’: recent advances, applications and future directions in deformable plate tectonic modelling

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2021

Alexander L Peace*
School of Earth, Environment and Society, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
*Author for correspondence: Alexander L. Peace, Email:


The recent proliferation of deformable plate tectonic modelling techniques has provided a new direction in the study of plate tectonics with substantial implications for our understanding of plate deformation and past kinematics. Such models account for intraplate deformation, yet are highly variable in their inputs, capabilities and applications. The aim of this commentary is to review recent contributions to this topic, and to consider future directions and major omissions. Through this review it is apparent that the current published deformable models can be subdivided into those that as an input either: (1) solely use plate motions to drive deformation, or (2) require stretching or beta factor. Deformable models are resolving some outstanding issues with plate reconstructions, but major simplifications and modelling assumptions remain. Primarily, obtaining model constraints on the spatio-temporal evolution of deformation is an outstanding problem. Deformable plate models likely work best when the kinematics of smaller plates are included. However, questions remain regarding how to define such blocks, and their kinematic histories, whilst some work suggests that inclusion of such entities is negated through quantitative restorations.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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