Mapping the Thermal Lithosphere and Melting Across the Continental US

Ryan Porter, Mary Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The thermal regime of continental lithosphere plays a fundamental role in controlling the behavior of tectonic plates. In this work, we assess the thermal state of the North American upper mantle by combining shear-wave velocity models, calculated using data from the EarthScope facility, with empirically derived anelasticity models and basalt thermobarometry. We estimate the depth of the thermal lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB), defined as the intersection of a geotherm with the 1300°C adiabat. Results show lithospheric thicknesses across the contiguous US vary between ∼40 km and >200 km. The thinnest thermal lithosphere is observed in the tectonically active western US and the thickest lithosphere in the midcontinent. By combining geotherm estimates with solidus curves for peridotite, we show that a pervasive partial melt zone is common within the western US upper mantle and that partial melt is absent in the eastern and central US without significant metasomatism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL092197
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021


  • geotherm
  • lithosphere
  • mantle melting
  • surface waves
  • thermobarometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Mapping the Thermal Lithosphere and Melting Across the Continental US'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this