Seismic structure of the upper mantle in a central Pacific corridor

James B. Gaherty, Thomas H. Jordan, Lind S. Gee

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169 Scopus citations


The seismic structure of the Tonga-Hawaii corridor has been investigated by combining two data sets: Revenaugh and Jordan's reflectivity profile from ScS reverberations, which provides travel times to and impedance contrasts across the major mantle discontinuities, and 1500 new observations of frequency-dependent phase delays for the three-component S, SS, and SSS body waves and the R1 and G1 surface waves, which constrain the velocity structure within this layered framework. The shear waves turning in the upper mantle showed significant splitting of the SH and SV components, indicative of shallow polarization anisotropy. The data set was inverted in conjunction with attenuation and mineralogical constraints to obtain a complete spherically symmetric, radially anisotropic structure. The final model, PA5, is characterized by a high-velocity, anisotropic lid, bounded at 68 km depth by a large (negative) G discontinuity; a low-velocity, anisotropic layer below G, extending to a small L discontinuity at 166 km; an isotropic, steep-gradient region between 166 km and 415 km; and transition-zone discontinuities at 415, 507, and 651 km. The depth of the radial anisotropy in PA5 is shallower than in most previous studies based on surface waves and higher modes. The average value of radial shear anisotropy in the lid, +3.7%, is consistent with the magnitude expected from the spreading-controlled models of olivine orientation, while anisotropy in the low-velocity zone, which is required by our data set, could be induced either by paleostrains that took place near the ridge crest or by shearing in the asthenosphere as a result of present-day plate motions. On the basis of recent work by Hirth and Kohlstedt, we suggest that the G discontinuity is caused by a rapid increase in the water content of mantle minerals with depth, marking the fossilized lower boundary of the melt separation zone active during crust formation. The high-gradient zone between 200 and 400 km is a characteristic feature of convecting oceanic upper mantle and is probably controlled by a steady decrease in the homologous temperature over this depth interval. The average shear-velocity gradient in the transition zone is lower than in most previous seismic models, in better agreement with the predictions for a pyrolitic composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96JB01882
Pages (from-to)22291-22309
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue numberB10
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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