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Imaging the Earth with Ambient Noise and Earthquakes


Ma, Yiran (2016) Imaging the Earth with Ambient Noise and Earthquakes. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z90Z7155.


In this thesis, I develop the velocity and structure models for the Los Angeles Basin and Southern Peru. The ultimate goal is to better understand the geological processes involved in the basin and subduction zone dynamics. The results are obtained from seismic interferometry using ambient noise and receiver functions using earthquake- generated waves. Some unusual signals specific to the local structures are also studied. The main findings are summarized as follows:

(1) Los Angeles Basin

The shear wave velocities range from 0.5 to 3.0 km/s in the sediments, with lateral gradients at the Newport-Inglewood, Compton-Los Alamitos, and Whittier Faults. The basin is a maximum of 8 km deep along the profile, and the Moho rises to a depth of 17 km under the basin. The basin has a stretch factor of 2.6 in the center decreasing to 1.3 at the edges, and is in approximate isostatic equilibrium. This "high-density" (~1 km spacing) "short-duration" (~1.5 month) experiment may serve as a prototype experiment that will allow basins to be covered by this type of low-cost survey.

(2) Peruvian subduction zone

Two prominent mid-crust structures are revealed in the 70 km thick crust under the Central Andes: a low-velocity zone interpreted as partially molten rocks beneath the Western Cordillera – Altiplano Plateau, and the underthrusting Brazilian Shield beneath the Eastern Cordillera. The low-velocity zone is oblique to the present trench, and possibly indicates the location of the volcanic arcs formed during the steepening of the Oligocene flat slab beneath the Altiplano Plateau.

The Nazca slab changes from normal dipping (~25 degrees) subduction in the southeast to flat subduction in the northwest of the study area. In the flat subduction regime, the slab subducts to ~100 km depth and then remains flat for ~300 km distance before it resumes a normal dipping geometry. The flat part closely follows the topography of the continental Moho above, indicating a strong suction force between the slab and the overriding plate. A high-velocity mantle wedge exists above the western half of the flat slab, which indicates the lack of melting and thus explains the cessation of the volcanism above. The velocity turns to normal values before the slab steepens again, indicating possible resumption of dehydration and ecologitization.

(3) Some unusual signals

Strong higher-mode Rayleigh waves due to the basin structure are observed in the periods less than 5 s. The particle motions provide a good test for distinguishing between the fundamental and higher mode. The precursor and coda waves relative to the interstation Rayleigh waves are observed, and modeled with a strong scatterer located in the active volcanic area in Southern Peru. In contrast with the usual receiver function analysis, multiples are extensively involved in this thesis. In the LA Basin, a good image is only from PpPs multiples, while in Peru, PpPp multiples contribute significantly to the final results.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Ambient Seismic Noise; Receiver Function; Seismic Imaging; Basin; Subduction; Central Andes
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geophysics
Minor Option:Computational Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Clayton, Robert W.
Thesis Committee:
  • Tsai, Victor C. (chair)
  • Helmberger, Donald V.
  • Stock, Joann M.
  • Jackson, Jennifer M.
  • Clayton, Robert W.
Defense Date:10 December 2015
Non-Caltech Author Email:yiran06 (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Projects:Los Angeles Syncline Seismic Interferometry Experiment, Peru Subduction Experiment
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12192015-004219343
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 4 adapted for ch. 5 adapted for ch. 6
Ma, Yiran0000-0002-8369-3310
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9334
Deposited By: Yiran Ma
Deposited On:22 Dec 2015 18:10
Last Modified:12 Nov 2021 20:20

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