Shear wave velocities in the Pampean flat-slab region from Rayleigh wave tomography: Implications for slab and upper mantle hydration

Ryan Porter, Hersh Gilbert, George Zandt, Susan Beck, Linda Warren, Josh Calkins, Patricia Alvarado, Megan Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The Pampean flat-slab region, located in central Argentina and Chile between 29 and 34S, is considered a modern analog for Laramide flat-slab subduction within western North America. Regionally, flat-slab subduction is characterized by the Nazca slab descending to ∼100 km depth, flattening out for ∼300 km laterally before resuming a more "normal" angle of subduction. Flat-slab subduction correlates spatially with the track of the Juan Fernandez Ridge, and is associated with the inboard migration of deformation and the cessation of volcanism within the region. To better understand flat-slab subduction we combine ambient-noise tomography and earthquake-generated surface wave measurements to calculate a regional 3D shear velocity model for the region. Shear wave velocity variations largely relate to changes in lithology within the crust, with basins and bedrock exposures clearly defined as low- and high-velocity regions, respectively. We argue that subduction-related hydration plays a significant role in controlling shear wave velocities within the upper mantle. In the southern part of the study area, where normal-angle subduction is occurring, the slab is visible as a high-velocity body with a low-velocity mantle wedge above it, extending eastward from the active arc. Where flat-slab subduction is occurring, slab velocities increase to the east while velocities in the overlying lithosphere decrease, consistent with the slab dewatering and gradually hydrating the overlying mantle. The hydration of the slab may be contributing to the excess buoyancy of the subducting oceanic lithosphere, helping to drive flat-slab subduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB11301
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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