Journal Article

A lithospheric velocity model for the flat slab region of Argentina from joint inversion of Rayleigh wave phase velocity dispersion and teleseismic receiver functions

Jean-Baptiste Ammirati, Patricia Alvarado and Susan Beck

in Geophysical Journal International

Volume 202, issue 1, pages 224-241
ISSN: 0956-540X
Published online April 2015 | e-ISSN: 1365-246X | DOI:
A lithospheric velocity model for the flat slab region of Argentina from joint inversion of Rayleigh wave phase velocity dispersion and teleseismic receiver functions

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In the central Andes, the Nazca plate displays large along strike variations in dip with a near horizontal subduction angle between 28 and 32°S referred to the Pampean flat slab segment. The upper plate above the Pampean flat slab has high rates of crustal seismicity and active basement cored uplifts. The SIEMBRA experiment, a 43-broad-band-seismic-station array was deployed to better characterize the Pampean flat slab region around 31°S. In this study, we explore the lithospheric structure above the flat slab as a whole and its relation to seismicity. We use the SIEMBRA data to perform a joint inversion of teleseismic receiver functions and Rayleigh wave phase velocity dispersion to constrain the shear wave velocity variations in the lithosphere. Our joint inversion results show: (1) the presence of several upper-plate mid-crustal discontinuities and their lateral extent that are probably related to the terrane accretion history; (2) zones of high shear wave velocity in the upper-plate lower crust associated with a weak Moho signal consistent with the hypothesis of partial eclogitization in the lower crust; (3) the presence of low shear-wave velocities at ∼100 km depth interpreted as the subducting oceanic crust. Finally, in order to investigate the relation of the lithospheric structure to seismicity, we determine an optimal velocity–depth model based on the joint inversion results and use it to perform regional moment tensor inversions (SMTI) of crustal and slab earthquakes. The SMTI for 18 earthquakes that occurred between 2007 and 2009 in the flat slab region below Argentina, indicates systematically shallower focal depths for slab earthquakes (compared with inversions using previous velocity models). This suggests that the slab seismicity is concentrated mostly between 90 and 110 km depths within the subducting Nazca plate's oceanic crust and likely related to dehydration. In addition, the slab earthquakes exhibit extensional focal mechanisms suggesting new faulting at the edges of the flat portion of the slab. SMTI solutions for upper-plate crustal earthquakes match well the geological observations of reactivated structures and agree with crustal shortening. Our new constraints on flat slab structure can aid earthquake characterization for regional seismic hazard assessment and efforts to help understand the mechanisms for slab flattening in the central Andes.

Keywords: Seismicity and tectonics; Body waves; Surface waves and free oscillations; Subduction zone processes; Dynamics of lithosphere and mantle; South America

Journal Article.  11735 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geophysics

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