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The lithosphere and asthenosphere of the Iceland hotspot from surface waves

The lithosphere and asthenosphere of the Iceland hotspot from surface waves

Title: The lithosphere and asthenosphere of the Iceland hotspot from surface waves
Author: Bjarnason, Ingi Þorleifur   orcid.org/0000-0001-5716-7053
Schmeling, Harro   orcid.org/0000-0002-6997-5514
Date: 2009-07
Language: English
Scope: 394-418
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Verkfræði- og náttúruvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Engineering and Natural Sciences (UI)
Department: Raunvísindastofnun (HÍ)
Science Institute (UI)
Series: Geophysical Journal International;178(1)
ISSN: 0956-540X
1365-246X (eISSN)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04155.x
Subject: Surface waves and free oscillations; Seismic anisotropy; Mid-ocean ridge processes; Hotspots; Crustal structure; Atlantic Ocean; Jarðeðlisfræði; Eldvirkni; Jarðmöttull; Jarðskorpa; Bylgjufræði; Atlantshaf
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/503

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Ingi Thorleifur Bjarnason, Harro Schmeling; The lithosphere and asthenosphere of the Iceland hotspot from surface waves, Geophysical Journal International, Volume 178, Issue 1, 1 July 2009, Pages 394–418, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04155.x


1-D models were calculated for the velocity of shear waves, polarized vertically (SV) and horizontally (SH) from dispersed Rayleigh and Love surface waves. These had been recorded in Iceland by the ICEMELT broad-band seismic network, with about half of the waves coming from near-distance earthquakes (≤1000 km). The analysis included unusually short periods, as brief as 5.0 s, and periods ranging up to 93 s. The Icelandic crust was revealed to have two basic layers: first, the upper and middle crust, which were largely detected as one layer, and second the layer of the lower crust. The half of Iceland surveyed had a weighted average crustal thickness of 25–26 km, less than previously estimated. It is under East and East Central Iceland that the crust is thickest, averaging 29–32 ± 3 km, and under the western margin of the West Fjords, 29 ± 2 km. The thinnest parts of the crust lie in West Central Iceland, 19 ± 1 km, and in the West Volcanic (or Rift) Zone, 19[+6/−1] km. This study examined how thicker crust away from the rift zone can be fitted with dynamic crust formation models. Possible explanations for different thicknesses include both crustal squeezing flow and imbalances between widths of the volcanic accretion and extensional stretching zones. The crust has highly anisotropic zones, with differences of up to 20 per cent between SV and SH velocities. Under rift zones, the lower crust is characterized by low velocities and, at depths of 8–18 km, by a channel with yet lower velocities. The lowest shear velocity in this channel is 5–9 per cent less than in the standard Icelandic velocity model. The thinnest lithosphere, 20 ± 2 km, lies under the East Central and North Volcanic Zones, where it extends up into the crust, while the thickest lithosphere is under East Iceland and the east shelf, nowhere less than 100 ± 20 km. This substantial contrast in lithosphere thickness of some 80 km occurs within a lateral distance of 100–150 km, implying an age unconformity at depth of several tens of millions of years. The thick East Iceland lithosphere may reduce or obstruct any eastward flow of the plume head. On the opposite side of the plume head, in Northwest Iceland and the West Fjords, the lithosphere is estimated to be 60 ± 10 km thick. Excepting the West Fjords and East Iceland, shear wave velocities are low in the island's subcrustal mantle, up to 7–9 per cent below the world average according to the PREM model. This indicates a warm, partially molten mantle under much of Central Iceland and the active rift zones. There is a lateral difference of 10–12 per cent in shear velocity between the shallowest mantle asthenosphere under Central Iceland and under the mantle lid to each side, that is, under the West Fjords and East Iceland. In the shallowest Central Iceland mantle, Vp/Vs-ratios suggest near solidus temperatures and a partial melt of 2–3 per cent. This paper describes structural variations in the asthenosphere down to 75–200 km. The low-velocity zone found 100–125 km below Central Iceland and the major part of western Iceland is interpreted as the onset of mantle plume melting. Mantle anisotropy is pronounced beneath Iceland, with SH and SV velocities differing by up to 10 per cent. The anisotropy structure is 3-D and normally reaches higher values in the asthenosphere than in the mantle lid. The main factor determining the asthenosphere's generally azimuthal anisotropy may be the lattice-preferred orientation (LPO) induced by flow. Based on this interpretation and the observed anisotropy, it follows that the plume head is flowing westwards at a depth of 60–110 km. The deeper, more pervasive North Atlantic flow is towards the northwest, leading to differential shearing. However, LPO anisotropy alone would perhaps remain under 8per cent, without the contributing factor of systematic melt distribution.

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