The teleseismic signature of fossil subduction: Northwestern Canada

J. P. Mercier, M. G. Bostock, P. Audet, J. B. Gaherty, E. J. Garnero, Justin Revenaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Between June 2003 and September 2005, 20 broadband, three-component seismometers were deployed along the MacKenzie-Liard Highway in Canada's Northwest Territories as part of the joint Lithoprobe-IRIS Canada Northwest Experiment (CANOE). These stations traverse a paleo-Proterozoic suture and subduction zone that has been previously documented to mantle depths using seismic reflection profiling. Teleseismic receiver functions computed from ∼250 earthquakes clearly reveal the response of the ancient subduction zone. On the radial component, the suture is evident as a direct conversion from the Moho, the depth of which increases from ∼30 km to ∼50 km over a horizontal distance of ∼70 km before its signature disappears. The structure is still better defined on the transverse component where the Moho appears as the upper boundary of a 10 km thick layer of anisotropy that can be traced from 30 km to at least 90 km depth. The seismic response of this layer is characterized by a frequency dependence that can be modeled by upper and lower boundaries that are discontinuous in material properties and their gradients, respectively. Anisotropy can be characterized by a ±5% variation in shear velocity and hexagonal symmetry with a fast axis that plunges at an oblique angle to the subduction plane. The identification of this structure provides an unambiguous connection between fossil subduction and fine-scale, anisotropic mantle layering. Previous documentation of similar layering below the adjacent Slave province and from a range of Precambrian terranes across the globe provides strong support for the thesis that early cratonic blocks were stabilized through processes of shallow subduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB04308
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 4 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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