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Complicated lithospheric structure beneath the contiguous US revealed by teleseismic S reflections
  • Tianze Liu,
  • Peter M. Shearer
Tianze Liu
University of California, San Diego, University of California, San Diego

Corresponding Author:tianzeliu@gmail.com

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Peter M. Shearer
U.C. San Diego, U.C. San Diego
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Lithospheric discontinuities, including the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB) and the enigmatic mid-lithospheric discontinuities (MLDs), hold important clues about the structure and evolution of tectonic plates. However, P- and S-receiver-function techniques (PRF and SRF), two traditional techniques to image Earth’s deep discontinuities, have some shortcomings in imaging lithosphere discontinuities. Here, we propose a new method using reflections generated by teleseismic S waves (hereafter S reflections) to image lithospheric discontinuities, which is less affected by multiple phases than PRFs and has better depth resolution than SRFs. We apply this method to data collected by the Transportable Array and other regional seismic networks and obtain new high-resolution images of the lithosphere below the contiguous US. Beneath the tectonically active Western US, we observe a negative polarity reflector (NPR) in the depth range of 60–110 km, with greatly varying amplitude and depth, which correlates with active tectonic processes. We interpret this feature as the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary below the Western US. Beneath the tectonically stable Central and Eastern US, we observe two NPRs in the depth ranges of 60–100 km and 100–150 km, whose amplitude and depth also vary significantly, and which appear to correlate with past tectonic processes. We interpret these features as mid-lithospheric discontinuities below the Central and Eastern US. Our results show reasonable agreement with results from PRFs, which have similar depth resolution, suggesting the possibility of joint inversion of S reflections and PRFs to constrain the properties of lithospheric discontinuities.
May 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth volume 126 issue 5. 10.1029/2020JB021624