Three-dimensional shear wave velocity structure in the Atlantic upper mantle
James, Esther Kezia
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Oceanic lithosphere constitutes the upper boundary layer of the Earth’s convecting mantle. Its structure and evolution provide a vital window on the dynamics of the mantle and important clues to how the motions of Earth’s surface plates are coupled to convection in the mantle below. The three-dimensional shear-velocity structure of the upper mantle beneath the Atlantic Ocean is investigated to gain insight into processes that drive formation of oceanic lithosphere. Travel times are measured for approximately 10,000 fundamental-mode Rayleigh waves, in the period range 30-130 seconds, traversing the Atlantic basin. Paths with >30% of their length through continental upper mantle are excluded to maximize sensitivity to the oceanic upper mantle. The lateral distribution of Rayleigh wave phase velocity in the Atlantic upper mantle is explored with two approaches. One, phase velocity is allowed to vary only as a function of seafloor age. Two, a general two-dimensional parameterization is utilized in order to capture perturbations to age-dependent structure. Phase velocity shows a strong dependence on seafloor age, and removing age-dependent velocity from the 2-D maps highlights areas of anomalously low velocity, almost all of which are proximal to locations of hotspot volcanism. Depth-dependent variations in vertically-polarized shear velocity (Vsv) are determined with two sets of 3-D models: a layered model that requires constant VSV in each depth layer, and a splined model that allows VSV to vary continuously with depth. At shallow depths (~75 km) the seismic structure shows the expected dependence on seafloor age. At greater depths (~200 km) high-velocity lithosphere is found only beneath the oldest seafloor; velocity variations beneath younger seafloor may result from temperature or compositional variations within the asthenosphere. The age-dependent phase velocities are used to constrain temperature in the mantle and show that, in contrast to previous results for the Pacific, phase velocities for the Atlantic are not consistent with a half-space cooling model but are best explained by a plate-cooling model with thickness of 75 km and mantle temperature of 1400oC. Comparison with data such as basalt chemistry and seafloor elevation helps to separate thermal and compositional effects on shear velocity.