Pervasive seismic low-velocity zones within stagnant plates in the mantle transition zone: Thermal or compositional origin?

B. Tauzin, S. Kim, B. L.N. Kennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We exploit conversions between P and S waves for large-scale, high-resolution imaging of the mantle transition zone beneath Northwest Pacific and the margin of Eastern Asia. We find pervasive reflectivity concentrated in two bands with apparent wave-speed reduction of −2% to −4% about 50 km thick at the top of the transition zone and 100 km thick at the bottom. This negative reflectivity associated with the scattered-waves at depth is interpreted jointly with larger-scale mantle tomographic images, and is shown to delineate the stagnant portions of the subducted Pacific plate in the transition zone, with largely positive shear-wave velocity contrasts. The upper reflectivity zone connects to broad low-velocity regions below major intra-plate volcanoes, whereas the lower zone coincides locally with the occurrence of deep-focus earthquakes along the East Asia margin. Similar reflectivity is found in Pacific Northwest of the USA. We demonstrate that the thermal signature of plates alone is not sufficient to explain such features. Alternative explanations for these reflective zones include kinetic effects on olivine phase transitions (meta-stability), compositional heterogeneities within and above stagnant plates, complex wave-propagation effects in the heterogeneous slab structure, or a combination of such factors. We speculate that part of the negative reflectivity is the signature of compositional heterogeneities, as revealed by numerous other studies of seismic scattering throughout the mantle, and that such features could be widespread across the globe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume477
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov 1
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • low-velocity zones
  • mantle transition zone
  • northeast Asia margin
  • northwest Pacific
  • receiver functions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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