Investigating Transition Zone Thickness Variation under the Arabian Plate: Evidence Lacking for Deep Mantle Upwellings
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Cenozoic volcanic outcrops in Arabia - locally known as harrats - span more than 2000 km along the western half of the Arabian plate, from eastern Yemen to southern Syria. The magmatism is bimodal in character, with older volcanics (30 to 20 My) being tholeiitic-to-transitional and paralleling the Red Sea margin, and younger volcanics (12 Ma to Recent) being transitional-to-strongly-alkalic and aligning in a more north-south direction. The bimodal character has been attributed to a two-stage rifting process along the Red Sea, where the old volcanics would have produced from shallow sources related to an initial passive rifting stage, and young volcanics would have originated from one or more deep-seated mantle plumes driving present active rifting. Early models suggested the harrats would have resulted from either lateral flow from the Afar plume in Ethiopia, or more locally from a separate mantle plume directly located under the shield. Most recently, tomographic images of the Arabian mantle have suggested the northern harrats could be resulting from flow originating at a deep plume under Jordan. In this work, we investigate the location of deep mantle plumes under the Arabian plate by mapping transition zone thickness with teleseismic receiver functions. The transition zone is bounded by seismic discontinuities, nominally at 410 and 660 km depth, originating from phase transitions in the olivine-normative component of the mantle. The precise depth of the discontinuities is strongly dependent on temperature and, due to the opposing signs of the corresponding Clapeyron slopes, positive temperature anomalies are expected to result in thinning of the transition zone. Our dataset consists of ~5000 low-frequency (fc < 0.25 Hz) receiver function waveforms obtained at ~110 broadband stations belonging to a number of permanent and temporary seismic networks in the region. The receiver functions were migrated to depth and stacked along a ~2000 km long record section displaying P-to-S conversions at seismic discontinuities under Western Arabia. Our results display a normal to thicker-than-average transition zone under the study area, suggesting thermal perturbations of the transition zone due to deep mantle upwellings under the western shield and/or Jordan are unlikely.