Upper Mantle Discontinuity Structure Beneath the Western Atlantic Ocean and Eastern North America from SS Precursors
Abstract:Seismic discontinuities within the mantle arise from a wide range of mechanisms, including changes in mineralogy, major element composition, melt content, volatile abundance, anisotropy, or a combination of the above. In particular, the depth and sharpness of upper mantle discontinuities at 410 and 660 km depth are attributed to solid-state phase changes sensitive to both mantle temperature and composition, where regions of thermal heterogeneity produce topography and chemical heterogeneity changes the impedance contrast across the discontinuity. Seismic mapping of this topography and sharpness thus provides constraint on the thermal and compositional state of the mantle.
The EarthScope USArray is providing unprecedented access to a wide variety of new regions previously undersampled by the SS precursors. This includes the boundary between the oceanic plate in the western Atlantic Ocean and continental margin of eastern North America. Here we use a seismic array approach to image the depth, sharpness, and topography of the upper mantle discontinuities, as well as other possible upper mantle reflectors beneath this region. This array approach utilizes seismic waves that reflect off the underside of a mantle discontinuity and arrive several hundred seconds prior to the SS seismic phase as precursory energy.
In this study, we collected high-quality broadband data SS precursors data from shallow focus (< 30 km deep), mid-Atlantic ridge earthquakes recorded by USArray seismometers in Alaska. We generated 4th root vespagrams to enhance the SS precursors and determine how they sample the mantle. Our data show detection of localized structure on the discontinuity boundaries as well as additional horizons, such as the X-discontinuity and a potential reflection from a discontinuity near the depth of the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary. These structures are related to the transition from predominantly old ocean lithosphere to underlying continental lithosphere, as while deeper reflectors are associated with the subduction of the ancient Farallon slab. A comparison of the depth of upper mantle discontinuities to changes in seismic velocity and anisotropy will further quantify the relationship to mantle flow, compositional layering, and phases changes.