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Seismic structure above and below the core-mantle boundary


Garnero, Edward James (1994) Seismic structure above and below the core-mantle boundary. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


Seismic structure above and below the core-mantle boundary (CMB) has been studied through use of travel time and waveform analyses of several different seismic wave groups. Anomalous systematic trends in observables document mantle heterogeneity on both large and small scales. Analog and digital data has been utilized, and in many cases the analog data has been optically scanned and digitized prior to analysis.

Differential travel times of S - SKS are shown to be an excellent diagnostic of anomalous lower mantle shear velocity (V s) structure. Wavepath geometries beneath the central Pacific exhibit large S- SKS travel time residuals (up to 10 sec), and are consistent with a large scale 0(1000 km) slower than average V_s region (≥3%). S - SKS times for paths traversing this region exhibit smaller scale patterns and trends 0(100 km) indicating V_s perturbations on many scale lengths. These times are compared to predictions of three tomographically derived aspherical models: MDLSH of Tanimoto [1990], model SH12_WM13 of Suet al. [1992], and model SH.10c.17 of Masters et al. [1992]. Qualitative agreement between the tomographic model predictions and observations is encouraging, varying from fair to good. However, inconsistencies are present and suggest anomalies in the lower mantle of scale length smaller than the present 2000+ km scale resolution of tomographic models. 2-D wave propagation experiments show the importance of inhomogeneous raypaths when considering lateral heterogeneities in the lowermost mantle.

A dataset of waveforms and differential travel times of S, ScS, and the arrival from the D" layer, Scd, provides evidence for a laterally varying V_s velocity discontinuity at the base of the mantle. Two different localized D" regions beneath the central Pacific have been investigated. Predictions from a model having a V_s discontinuity 180 km above the CMB agree well with observations for an eastern mid-Pacific CMB region. This thickness differs from V_s discontinuity thicknesses found in other regions, such as a localized region beneath the western Pacific, which average near 280 km. The "sharpness" of the V_s jump at the top of D", i.e., the depth range over which the V_s increase occurs, is not resolved by our data, and our data can in fact may be modeled equally well by a lower mantle with the increase in V_s at the top of D" occurring over a 100 krn depth range. It is difficult at present to correlate D" thicknesses from this study to overall lower mantle heterogeneity, due to uncertainties in the 3-D models, as well as poor coverage in maps of D" discontinuity thicknesses.

P-wave velocity structure (V_p) at the base of the mantle is explored using the seismic phases SKS and SPdKS. SPdKS is formed when SKS waves at distances around 107° are incident upon the CMB with a slowness that allows for coupling with diffracted P-waves at the base of the mantle. The P-wave diffraction occurs at both the SKS entrance and exit locations of the outer core. SP_dKS arrives slightly later in time than SKS, having a wave path through the mantle and core very close to SKS. The difference time between SKS and SP_dKS strongly depends on V_p at the base of the mantle near SK Score entrance and exit points. Observations from deep focus Fiji-Tonga events recorded by North American stations, and South American events recorded by European and Eurasian stations exhibit anomalously large SP_dKS - SKS difference times. SKS and the later arriving SP_dKS phase are separated by several seconds more than predictions made by 1-D reference models, such as the global average PREM [Dziewonski and Anderson, 1981] model. Models having a pronounced low-velocity zone (5%) in V_p in the bottom 50-100 km of the mantle predict the size of the observed SP_dK S-SKS anomalies. Raypath perturbations from lower mantle V_s structure may also be contributing to the observed anomalies.

Outer core structure is investigated using the family of SmKS (m=2,3,4) seismic waves. SmKS are waves that travel as S-waves in the mantle, P-waves in the core, and reflect (m-1) times on the underside of the CMB, and are well-suited for constraining outermost core V_p structure. This is due to closeness of the mantle paths and also the shallow depth range these waves travel in the outermost core. S3KS - S2KS and S4KS - S3KS differential travel times were measured using the cross-correlation method and compared to those from reflectivity synthetics created from core models of past studies. High quality recordings from a deep focus Java Sea event which sample the outer core beneath the northern Pacific, the Arctic, and northwestern North America (spanning 1/8th of the core's surface area), have SmKS wavepaths that traverse regions where lower mantle heterogeneity is pre- dieted small, and are well-modeled by the PREM core model, with possibly a small V_p decrease (1.5%) in the outermost 50 km of the core. Such a reduction implies chemical stratification in this 50 km zone, though this model feature is not uniquely resolved. Data having wave paths through areas of known D" heterogeneity (±2% and greater), such as the source-side of SmKS lower mantle paths from Fiji-Tonga to Eurasia and Africa, exhibit systematic SmKS differential time anomalies of up to several seconds. 2-D wave propagation experiments demonstrate how large scale lower mantle velocity perturbations can explain long wavelength behavior of such anomalous SmKS times. When improperly accounted for, lower mantle heterogeneity maps directly into core structure. Raypaths departing from homogeneity play an important role in producing SmKS anomalies. The existence of outermost core heterogeneity is difficult to resolve at present due to uncertainties in global lower mantle structure. Resolving a one-dimensional chemically stratified outermost core also remains difficult due to the same uncertainties. Restricting study to higher multiples of SmKS (m=2,3,4) can help reduce the affect of mantle heterogeneity due to the closeness of the mantle legs of the wavepaths. SmKS waves are ideal in providing additional information on the details of lower mantle heterogeneity.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Helmberger, Donald V.
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:2 May 1994
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05242013-114249496
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7751
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:24 May 2013 18:55
Last Modified:02 Dec 2020 02:17

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