Detecting lithospheric discontinuities beneath the Mississippi Embayment using S-wave receiver functions


Identifying upper-mantle discontinuities in the Central and Eastern US is crucial for verifying models of lithospheric thinning and a low-velocity anomaly structure beneath the Mississippi Embayment. In this study, S-wave receiver functions (SRFs) were used to detect lithospheric boundaries in the embayment region. The viability of SRFs in detecting seismic boundaries was tested before computing them using the earthquake data. A careful analysis using a stochastic noise and coda model on the synthetics revealed that a negative velocity contrast could be detected with certainty at low to moderate noise levels after stacking. A total of 31 518 SRFs from 688 earthquakes recorded at 174 seismic stations including the Northern Embayment Lithospheric Experiment, EarthScope Transportable Array and other permanent networks were used in this study. Common depth point stacks of the SRFs in 1° × 1° bins indicated a continuous and broad S-to-P converted phase (Sp) arrival corresponding to a negative velocity contrast at depths between 50 and 100 km. The observed negative Sp phase is interpreted as a mid-lithospheric discontinuity (MLD), and several possible origins of the velocity drop corresponding to the MLD are explored. After quantitative analysis, a combination of temperature, water content and melt content variations are attributed to explain the observed MLD in this study. The observations and interpretations in this study support the previous claims of an MLD in the Central and Eastern US and provide a possible mechanism for its origin.

Publication Title

Geophysical Journal International