Lithospheric radial anisotropy beneath the Gulf of Mexico

TitleLithospheric radial anisotropy beneath the Gulf of Mexico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsChu R, Ko JYen-Ting, Wei S, Zhan Z, Helmberger D
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Date Published05/2017

The Lithosphere-Asthenosphere Boundary (LAB), where a layer of low viscosity asthenosphere decouples with the upper plate motion, plays an essential role in plate tectonics. Most dynamic modeling assumes that the shear velocity can be used as a surrogate for viscosity which provides key information about mantle flow. Here, we derive a shear velocity model for the LAB structure beneath the Gulf of Mexico allowing a detailed comparison with that beneath the Pacific (PAC) and Atlantic (ATL). Our study takes advantage of the USArray data from the March 25th, 2013 Guatemala earthquake at a depth of 200 km. Such data is unique in that we can observe a direct upward traveling lid arrival which remains the first arrival ahead of the triplications beyond 18 degrees. This extra feature in conjunction with upper-mantle triplication sampling allows good depth control of the LAB and a new upper-mantle seismic model ATM, a modification of ATL, to be developed. ATM has a prominent low velocity zone similar to the structure beneath the western Atlantic. The model contains strong radial anisotropy in the lid where V-sH is about 6% faster than V-sv. This anisotropic feature ends at the bottom of the lithosphere at about the depth of 175 km in contrast to the Pacific where it extends to over 300 km. Another important feature of ATM is the weaker velocity gradient from the depth of 175 to 350 km compared to Pacific models, which may be related to differences in mantle flow.