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Constraining the Earth’s elastic structure with surface waves: Seismic anisotropy in the Pacific upper mantle and local amplification across the contiguous United States

Eddy, Celia Lois

I present new models of the elastic structure of the Pacific upper mantle that address the formation and evolution of oceanic plates. Using a surface-wave dispersion dataset, I perform anisotropic tomography to construct two-dimensional phase-velocity maps and three-dimensional velocity models of the Pacific basin. My three-dimensional elastic models describe both the radial and azimuthal anisotropy of seismic waves. In order to constrain these models, I develop regularization techniques that incorporate a priori information about the nature of the oceanic upper mantle, including both the age dependence of seismic velocities and the expected scaling relationships between azimuthal anisotropy parameters derived from realistic peridotite elastic tensors.

I observe a strong cooling signal in the upper-mantle seismic velocities that is consistent with halfspace cooling of the lithospheric plate; deviations from this simple cooling signature are related to the influence of mantle plumes or other thermal alteration of the lithosphere. As plate age increases, the depth to the thermally controlled lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary increases as well. This thermal boundary, as seen in the negative gradient in seismic velocities, is consistent with the depth at which there is a transition in anisotropy fast-axis orientation. This change in anisotropy orientation is due to the transition from frozen-in lithospheric anisotropy to asthenospheric anisotropy that is related to geologically recent shear beneath the base of the plate. The anisotropy orientations and strength that we observe throughout the plate are only consistent with A-type olivine fabric. There are regions where anisotropy orientations do not align with paleospreading directions in the lithosphere or absolute-plate-motion in the asthenosphere, suggesting that small-scale convection, mantle flow, and plumes could all lead to changes in the orientation of seismic anisotropy. There is a dependence on the strength of anisotropy on spreading rate at shallow depths; this implies that corner flow at faster-spreading ridges is more effective at aligning olivine crystals in the direction of shear.

I also present a new set of local surface-wave amplification maps spanning the contiguous United States. I perform a synthetic-tomography experiment in order to assess our ability to resolve variations in surface-wave amplification due to variations in local elastic structure. Local amplification derived from synthetic seismograms is very highly correlated with direct predictions of amplification, suggesting that we are able to resolve this signal well and that local amplification observations reflect elastic structure local to the station on which they are measured. Local amplification can be used as a complementary constraint to phase velocity in order to map upper-mantle elastic structure.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Ekström, Göran
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 14, 2020