Structure and dynamics of the Pacific upper mantle
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LocationCentral Pacific Ocean
Northern Philippine Sea
A new tomographic technique is employed to investigate the structure and dynamics of the Pacific upper mantle. We invert band-center travel times of ScS reverberations and frequency-dependent travel times of direct S phases, upper-mantle guided waves such as SS and SSS, and the R1 and G1 surface waves for the 2D composite structure in the plane of two Pacific corridors. The frequency-dependent travel times of the turning and surface waves are measured from all three components of ground motion as phase delays relative to a radially-anisotropic, spherically-symmetric oceanic mantle model, and their 2D Fréchet kernels are constructed by a coupled-mode algorithm. The travel times of the primary ScSn and sScSn phases and their first-order reverberations from the 410 and 660 discontinuities are measured as individual phases and the 2D Fréchet kernels for these band-limited signals are calculated using the paraxial ray approximation. The model parameters include shear-speed variations throughout the mantle, perturbations to radial shear-wave anisotropy in the uppermost mantle, and the topography of the 410 and 660 discontinuities. We construct vertical tomograms through two mantle corridors: one between the Tonga subduction zone and Oahu, Hawaii, which traverses the central Pacific Ocean; and the other between the Ryukyu subduction zone and Oahu, which samples the northern Philippine Sea, the western Pacific, and the entire Hawaiian swell. Tests demonstrate that the data sets for the two corridors resolve the lateral structure in the upper mantle with a scale length of a few hundreds kilometers and greater but that the resolving power decreases rapidly in the lower mantle. The model for the Tonga-Hawaii corridor reveals several interesting features, the most significant being a regular pattern of high and low shear velocities in the upper mantle between Tonga and Hawaii. These variations, which are well resolved by the data set, have a horizontal wavelength of 1500 km, a vertical dimension of 700 km, and an amplitude of about 3%, and they show a strong positive correlation with seafloor topography and geoid-height variations along this corridor. The geoid highs correspond to a series of northwest-trending swells associated with the major hotspots of the Society, Marquesas, and Hawaiian Islands. Where these swells cross the corridor, they are underlain by high shear velocities throughout the uppermost mantle, so it is unlikely that their topography is supported by thermal buoyancy. This result is substantiated by the model from the Ryukyu-Hawaii corridor, which exhibits a prominent, fast region that extends beneath the entire Hawaiian swell. This anomaly, which resides in the uppermost 200-300 km of the mantle, is also positively correlated with the undulations of the Hawaiian-swell height. The other dominant features in the Ryukyu-Hawaii model include the high-velocity subducting slabs beneath the Ryukyu and Izu-Bonin seismic zones, which extend throughout the entire upper mantle; a very low-velocity in the uppermost 160 km of the mantle beneath the northern Philippine Sea, which is ascribed to the presence of extra water in this region; and a pronounced minimum in the amount of radial anisotropy near Hawaii, which is also seen along the Tonga-Hawaii corridor. A joint inversion of the data from the two corridors reveals the same anomaly pattern and clearly demonstrates that the swells in the Central Pacific are underlain by fast velocities. It is therefore implied that the topography of the swells in the central Pacific is supported by a chemical buoyancy mechanism which is generated by basaltic volcanism and the formation of its low-density peridotitic residuum. While the basaltic depletion mechanism can produce high shear velocities in the uppermost 200 km, it cannot explain the depth extent of the fast anomalies beneath the swells which, along Tonga-Hawaii corridor, extend well into the transition zone. It is therefore hypothesized that the central Pacific is underlain by a system of convective rolls that are confined above the 660-km discontinuity. It is likely that these rolls are predominantly oriented in the direction of plate motion (like "Richter rolls ") but the limited depth of the fast anomaly beneath the Hawaiian swell (200-300 km) suggests that their pattern is probably more complicated. Nevertheless, this convection pattern appears to be strongly correlated with the locations of the Tahitian, Marquesan, and Hawaiian hotspots, which raises interesting questions for Morgan's hypothesis that these hotspots are the surface manifestations of deep-mantle plumes.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution December 1997
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