P wave velocity of Proterozoic upper mantle beneath central and southern Asia


P wave velocity structure of Proterozoic upper mantle beneath central and southern Africa was investigated by forward modeling of Pnl waveforms from four moderate size earthquakes. The source-receiver path of one event crosses central Africa and lies outside the African superswell while the source-receiver paths for the other events cross Proterozoic lithosphere within southern Africa, inside the African superswell. Three observables (Pn waveshape, PL-Pn time, and Pn/PL amplitude ratio) from the Pnl waveform were used to constrain upper mantle velocity models in a grid search procedure. For central Africa, synthetic seismograms were computed for 5880 upper mantle models using the generalized ray method and wavenumber integration; synthetic seismograms for 216 models were computed for southern Africa. Successful models were taken as those whose synthetic seismograms had similar waveshapes to the observed waveforms, as well as PL-Pn times within 3 s of the observed times and Pn/PL amplitude ratios within 30% of the observed ratio. Successful models for central Africa yield a range of uppermost mantle velocity between 7.9 and 8.3 km s-1, velocities between 8.3 and 8.5 km s-1 at a depth of 200 km, and velocity gradients that are constant or slightly positive. For southern Africa, successful models yield uppermost mantle velocities between 8.1 and 8.3 km s-1, velocities between 7.9 and 8.4 km s-1 at a depth of 130 km, and velocity gradients between -0.001 and 0.001 s-1. Because velocity gradients are controlled strongly by structure at the bottoming depths for Pn waves, it is not easy to compare the velocity gradients obtained for central and southern Africa. For central Africa, Pn waves turn at depths of about 150-200 km, whereas for southern Africa they bottom at ∼100-150 km depth. With regard to the origin of the African superswell, our results do not have sufficient resolution to test hypotheses that invoke simple lithospheric reheating. However, our models are not consistent with explanations for the African superswell invoking extensive amounts of lithospheric thinning. If extensive lithospheric thinning had occurred beneath southern Africa, as suggested previously, then upper mantle P wave velocities beneath southern Africa would likely be lower than those in our models.

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth

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