Imaging the Subduction of Continental Lithosphere in the Banda Sea Region

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Andreas Fichtner, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, Maarten De Wit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Manfred van Bergen, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
We present a 3D tomographic model of Australasia obtained by full seismic waveform inversion. Our model features a sharp lateral velocity contrast extending to >200 km depth, coincident with the abrupt transition from low to high Helium ratios in arc volcanics near 123°E (see figure). The joint analysis of the tomographic model and isotope data (for He, Pb, Nd, Sr) suggests that the North Australian craton subducted beneath the Banda Sea to around 100 km depth.

The continuous increase of computing power combined with advances in numerical seismology allow us to develop full waveform inversion techniques that translate complete seismograms into 3D Earth models. The natural incorporation of any type of body and surface waves in full waveform inversion improves tomographic resolution in terms of both resolution length and amplitude recovery.

We applied full waveform inversion to Australasia, including the Sunda and Banda arcs. The correlation of the tomographic model with isotope signatures of arc volcanics supports the shallow-angle subduction of North Australian lithosphere. The integrated data suggest that the late Jurassic ocean lithosphere north of the North Australian craton was capable of entraining large volumes of continental lithosphere.

A plausible explanation involves delamination within the continental crust, separating upper from lower crustal units. This interpretation is consistent with the existence of a massive accretionary complex on Timor island, with evidence from Pb isotope analysis for lower-crust involvement in arc volcanism; and with the approximate gravitational stability of the subducted lithosphere as inferred from the tomographic images. The Banda arc example demonstrates that continental lithosphere in arc-continent collisions may not generally be preserved, thus increasing the complexity of tectonic reconstructions and models of recycling continental crust.