A joint local and teleseismic tomography study of the Mississippi Embayment and New Madrid Seismic Zone


Detailed, upper mantle P and S wave velocity (Vp and Vs) models are developed for the northern Mississippi Embayment (ME), a major physiographic feature in the Central United States (U.S.) and the location of the active New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). This study incorporates local earthquake and teleseismic data from the New Madrid Seismic Network, the Earthscope Transportable Array, and the FlexArray Northern Embayment Lithospheric Experiment stations. The Vp and Vs solutions contain anomalies with similar magnitudes and spatial distributions. High velocities are present in the lower crust beneath the NMSZ. A pronounced low-velocity anomaly of ~ −3%–−5% is imaged at depths of 100–250 km. High-velocity anomalies of ~ +3%–+4% are observed at depths of 80–160 km and are located along the sides and top of the low-velocity anomaly. The low-velocity anomaly is attributed to the presence of hot fluids upwelling from a flat slab segment stalled in the transition zone below the Central U.S.; the thinned and weakened ME lithosphere, still at slightly higher temperatures from the passage of the Bermuda hotspot in mid-Cretaceous, provides an optimal pathway for the ascent of the fluids. The observed high-velocity anomalies are attributed to the presence of mafic rocks emplaced beneath the ME during initial rifting in the early Paleozoic and to remnants of the depleted, lower portion of the lithosphere.

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth