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Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2010

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Earth & Planetary Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



We determine shear wave splitting parameters of teleseismic SKS and SKKS phases recorded at 43 broadband seismometers deployed in South Victoria Land as part of the Transantarctic Mountains seismic experiment (TAMSEIS) from 2000-2003. We use an eigenvalue technique to linearize the rotated and shifted shear wave particle motions and determine the best splitting parameters. The data show a fairly consistent fast direction of azimuthal anisotropy oriented approximately N60E with splitting times of about 1 second. Based on a previous study of the azimuthal variations of Rayleigh wave phase velocities which show a similar fast direction, we suggest the anisotropy is localized in the uppermost mantle, with a best estimate of 3% anisotropy in a layer of about 150 km thickness. We suggest that the observed anisotropy near the Ross Sea coast, a region underlain by thin lithosphere, results either from upper mantle flow related to Cenozoic Ross Sea extension or to edge-driven convection associated with a sharp change in lithospheric thickness between East and West Antarctica. Both hypotheses are consistent with the more E-W fast axis orientation for stations on Ross Island and along the coast, sub-parallel to the extension direction and the lithospheric boundary. Anisotropy in East Antarctica, which is underlain by cold thick continental lithosphere, must be localized within the lithospheric upper mantle and reflect a relict tectonic fabric from past deformation events. Fast axes for the most remote stations in the Vostok Highlands are rotated by 20 and are parallel to splitting measurements at South Pole. These observations seem to delineate a distinct domain of lithospheric fabric, which may represent the extension of the Darling Mobile Belt or Pinjarra Orogen into the interior of East Antarctica. Seismic tomography imaging provides an opportunity to constrain mantle wedge processes associated with subduction, volatile transport, arc volcanism, and backarc spreading. We investigate seismic velocity structure of the upper mantle across the Central Mariana subduction system using data from the 2003-2004 Mariana Subduction Factory Imaging Experiment. This 11-month experiment consisted of 20 broadband seismic stations deployed on islands and 58 semi-broadband ocean bottom seismographs deployed across the forearc, island arc, and backarc spreading center. We determine Vp and Vp/Vs structure on a three dimensional grid using over 25,000 local travel time observations as well as over 2000 teleseismic arrival times determined by waveform cross correlation. The mantle wedge is characterized by a region of low velocity and high Vp/Vs beneath the forearc, an inclined zone of low velocity underlying the volcanic front, and a broad region of low velocity beneath the backarc spreading center. The slow velocity anomalies are strongest at roughly 20-30 km depth in the forearc, 60-70 km depth beneath the volcanic arc, and 20-30 km beneath the back-arc spreading center. The slow velocity anomalies beneath the arc and back-arc appear as separate and distinct features in our images, with a small channel of connectivity occurring at approximately 75 km depth. The subducting Pacific plate is characterized by high seismic velocities. An exception occurs in the forearc beneath the big blue seamount and at the top of the slab at roughly 80 km depth where slow velocities are observed. We interpret the forearc anomalies to represent a region of large scale serpentinization of the mantle whereas the arc and backarc anomalies represent regions of high temperature with a small amount of increased water content and/or melt and constrain the source regions in the mantle for arc and back-arc lavas. We investigate the double seismic zone (dsz) beneath the Central Mariana Arc using data from a land-sea array of 58 ocean bottom seismographs and 20 land seismographs deployed during 2003-2004. Nearly 600 well-recorded earthquakes were located using a P and S wave arrival times and a double difference relocation technique. The double seismic zone is well imaged from the forearc region to a depth of nearly 200 km. The width of the dsz is approximately 30 km at shallow depths and gradually becomes narrower with depth until it is now longer resolvable at depths greater than 180-200 km. Focal mechanisms determined from P and S wave polarities and amplitudes indicate that events from 70-150 km depth show along strike extension, whereas events greater than 150 km show downdip extension. Both the upper and lower zones of the dsz show similar focal mechanisms, demonstrating that the dsz is not caused by bending or unbending stresses. Along-strike tension may result from stresses related to the increasing curvature of the Mariana slab over the past few million years, as indicated by plate reconstructions. Downdip extension may result from slab pull forces consistent with the strong density anomaly of an old, cold plate relative to the surrounding mantle.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Douglas Wiens

Committee Members

Michael Wysession, Slava Solomatov, Phil Skemer, Martin Israel, James Condor


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