Moho structure of the South China Sea basin and the surrounding from constrained 3-D gravity inversion

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Wu Zhaocai and Gao Jinyao, Second Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanographic Administration of China, Hangzhou, China
We have obtained the Moho depth of the South China Sea basin using gravity data with the 191 control points from seismic data and sonobuoys. To obtain the residual mantle Bouguer anomaly (RMBA), we deducted the anomaly from lateral changes in bathymetry or topography, the gravity anomaly due to changes in sediment thickness and density from the free air anomaly firstly, and then corrected the lithosphere thermal gravity anomaly from the rifted margin to the spread ridge. According to the relationship between the control points and RMBA, we calculated the initial Moho depth, from which, we done an iterative cycle of gravity inversion to predict the final Moho depth and crustal thickness. To calculate the lithosphere thermal gravity anomaly, we defined a critical thinning factor for the initiation of oceanic crust production, and a maximum oceanic crustal thickness; for this study area, values of 0.5 and 9 km were used respectively, consistent with the Moho depth of 20km and 14km respectively, with the initial thickness of continental crust of 32km.

The RMS(root mean square) difference with the control points is 1.54km. Over most of the South China Sea basin, the Moho depth is 11 and 13km, the crustal thickness is 5-8km. The Moho depth of the Northwest sub basin has values between 12 and 13km, the crustal thickness is mostly ~7km. The NW trending fault divides obviously the extinct spreading centers of the East and southwest sub basin. Meanwhile, on the north side of the two sub basin extinct spreading centers, the crustal thickness is slightly thicker 1km than the south. The ocean-continent transition (OCT) is enclosed by the 14km and 20km Moho depth contour. At the East sub basin, the OCT shows asymmetry, and is broader and longer on the northern margin than the southern margin. One of the most noticeable characteristics in the northeastern margin of the OCT is that the crustal thickness is 10-16km. However, at the southwest sub basin, the OCT is symmetrical.