Seismic Constraints on the Japan Subduction Zone from Waveform Inversions of SS precursors

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ramin Dokht, Yu Jeffrey Gu and Mauricio D Sacchi, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Arrival times of long-period secondary mantle reflections such as SS and PP precursors have made significant contributions to the understanding of the mantle structure and slab dynamics beneath the Pacific Northwest. Due to strong sensitivities to discontinuity depths, the timing information is often correlated with P/S velocity models from high-resolution seismic tomography while stacked reflection amplitudes provide a measure of impedance contrast. A potential pitfall in the interpretations of SS-precursor measurements is velocity-discontinuity depth ambiguity, as the timing of secondary reflections is mainly 'corrected' based on existing smoothed velocity estimates. In this study we quantitatively investigate the amplitude information of a dense SS precursor data set sampling the northwestern Pacific region. We model the full waveforms of SS precursors using the Genetic Algorithm (GA), an effective nonlinear inversion technique, and properly account for the tradeoff between shear wave velocity and discontinuity depth perturbation. The inverted shear velocities clearly show a consistent high-velocity, dipping structure along the Wadati-Benioff zone, likely in connection with the descending Japan slab. The slab appears to stagnate and horizontally deflect within the upper mantle transition zone beneath northeastern China. The integrity of the deflected slab appears to be compromised beneath the Changbai hotspot where a low velocity anomaly interrupts the flat lying high velocity structure and extends upward to, at least, mid MTZ depths. This anomaly does not appear to reach the Changbai hotspot, though its connection with observed low velocities in the lithosphere and asthenosphere may not be ruled out. Our nonlinear waveform inversion results also show a 600-km wide low velocity zone (up to -4% relative to the Preliminary Reference Earth Model (PREM)) atop the 660-km discontinuity on the oceanic side of the subducting Japan slab. The cause of this anomaly remains questionable, though 1) upwelling hot mantle materials in response to slab interaction with the lower mantle and 2) the remnant of the Mesozoic-era superplume in the Pacific ocean may both contribute to its existence.