Predictions and Observations for the Oceanic Lithosphere From S -to- P Receiver Functions and SS Precursors

Catherine A Rychert, Nick Harmon
Geophysical Research Letters 2018 June 16, 45 (11): 5398-5406
The ocean lithosphere is classically described by the thermal half-space cooling (HSC) or the plate models, both characterized by a gradual transition to the asthenosphere beneath. Scattered waves find sharp seismic discontinuities beneath the oceans, possibly from the base of the plate. Active source studies suggest sharp discontinuities from a melt channel. We calculate synthetic S -to- P receiver functions and SS precursors for the HSC and plate models and also for channels. We find that the HSC and plate model velocity gradients are too gradual to create interpretable scattered waves from the base of the plate. Subtle phases are predicted to follow a similar trend as observations, flattening at older ages. Therefore, the seismic discontinuities are probably caused by a thermally controlled process that can also explain their amplitude, such as melting. Melt may coalesce in channels, although channels >10 km thick should be resolvable by scattered wave imaging.

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