Dynamics and Imaging of Subduction

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Title: Dynamics and Imaging of Subduction
Author: O'Driscoll, Leland
Abstract: Convergent plate boundaries evolve through the dynamic interaction between subducting oceanic lithosphere, overriding lithosphere, and adjacent flow of the convective mantle. These lithospheric plates contain remarkable heterogeneity in thickness, strength, and observable seismic character. I investigate the role of variable thickness of continental lithosphere with respect to mantle flow dynamics and develop a relationship of this subduction configuration with the construction of the Andes Mountains. By inclusion of this geodynamic model into the Andean Orogeny, numerous irreconcilable observations in the Eocene and Oligocene can be related with a comprehensive tectonic model. Lithospheric heterogeneity can be imaged with the inversion of seismic travel time data. I develop an analysis of a potential source of non-unique modeling of seismic velocity structure and then develop a case study of a currently subducting oceanic lithosphere using an iterative ray tracing approach. First, I consider the impact of the assumption of isotropic wave propagation implicit in a common methodology of data inversion. First-order structure is shown to be well resolved, but higher-order structure can be significantly different in regions of observed high-amplitude or null SKS splitting observations. The southern edge of the Juan de Fuca plate is imaged by traditional methods and an iterative ray tracing approach. The inclusion of ray tracing allows modeling of a more realistic velocity model by minimizing the error in source to receiver sensitivity. Compared to the standard imaging procedure, the resolved structure with this updated method contains smaller, more confined anomalies that represent the subducted oceanic lithosphere. Velocity perturbation amplitudes generally are decreased for slow structure and increase for fast structures. These changes in velocity structure provide an explanation for the decreased root mean square residual of the data that remain after inversion. I find that the high amplitude fast velocity of the Juan de Fuca is a robust feature and the currently subducting slab does not penetrate the mantle transition zone. I attribute the locus of very fast Juan de Fuca sub-continental lithosphere to be related to deformation of the plate prior to and during subduction. This dissertation includes previously published co-authored material.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12374
Date: 2012


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