USArray Regional Phase Analysis

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Janine S Buehler and Peter M Shearer, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
The regional Pn and Sn phases, which are typically described as headwaves that propagate in the uppermost mantle, are sensitive to heterogeneities in the mantle lid and complement other seismic studies with poorer vertical resolution at this depth. We have experimented with a variety of approaches to image the velocity structure and anisotropy in the western U.S., starting with separate Pn and Sn time-term tomographies, but also localized cross-correlation and stacking approaches that benefit from the regular USArray station arrangement. Later we combined the data sets for joint Pn-Sn inversions and the resulting Vp/Vs maps provide further insight into the nature of the seismic anomalies. Now that USArray has reached the east coast, we are updating our models to include the cumulative station footprint. The sparser source distribution in the eastern U.S., and the resulting longer ray paths, provide new challenges and justify the inclusion of additional parameters that account for the velocity gradient in the mantle lid. Our results show generally higher Pn velocities in the eastern U.S., but we observe patches of lower velocities around the New Madrid seismic zone and below the eastern Appalachians. We find that the Pn fast axes generally do not agree with SKS splitting orientations, suggesting significant vertical changes in anisotropy in the upper mantle. For example, the circular pattern of the fast polarization direction of SKS in the western U.S. is much less pronounced in the Pn results, and in the eastern U.S. the dominant Pn fast direction is approximately north-south, whereas the SKS fast polarizations are oriented roughly parallel to the absolute plate motion direction. Since Pn and Sn travel through the crust, they can provide additional information on crustal thickness. In several regions our results and estimates from receiver function studies are inconsistent. For example, beneath the Colorado Plateau our crustal thickness estimates are about 35-40 km, ~10 km smaller than several receiver function studies, even though the crust appears generally undeformed and seismic tomographies show mostly laterally-uniform crustal velocities throughout the Plateau. We are attempting to resolve some of these discrepancies as a first step toward combining different data sets for a joint analysis.