Cascadia Initiative Reveals Accumulation of Buoyant Material Beneath the Subducting Juan de Fuca Plate
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 17:15
104 (Moscone South)
The Cascadia Initiative is a four-year (2011–2015) amphibious seismic deployment that covers the Juan de Fuca plate and the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It is comprised of 70 broadband ocean-bottom seismometers that occupy 120 sites in total, as well as 27 land-based stations. This array offers a unique opportunity to study the 3D structure of a subduction zone in unprecedented detail. We present the results of an inversion using teleseismic body waves recorded by the Cascadia Initiative, EarthScope, and other regional and temporary networks in the Pacific Northwest. A low-velocity feature is visible beneath the subducting slab at shallow depths. Previous studies report ponding of low-viscosity, buoyant material at the top of the asthenosphere, unable to rise through the impermeable lithospheric lid. We show that as the lithospheric lid descends into the mantle, this material is not advected with it; rather, due to its own weakness and buoyancy, it accumulates at the subduction zone. Such material could be partly responsible for the rapid uplift and volcanism in the Coast Range of California, in the wake of the northward migration of the Mendocino Triple Junction. This newly observed feature may play an important role in the structure of subduction zones, but understanding the extent of that role on a global scale will require amphibious seismic deployments in other subduction zones.