Global Structure of the Mantle Transition Zone Discontinuities and Site Response Effects in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain


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Virginia Tech


This thesis focuses on two different topics in seismology: imaging the global structures of the mantle transition zone discontinuities and studying the site response effects in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain.

Global structures of the mantle transition zone discontinuities provide important constraints on thermal structures and dynamic processes in the mid mantle. In this thesis, global topographic structures of the 410- and 660-km discontinuities are obtained from finite-frequency tomography of SS precursors. The finite-frequency sensitivities of SS waves and precursors are calculated based on a single-scattering (Born) approximation and can be used for data selection. The new global models show a number of smaller-scale features that were absent in back-projection models. Good correlation between the mantle transition zone thickness and wave speed variations suggests dominantly thermal origins for the lateral variations in the transition zone.

The high-resolution global models of the 410- and 660-km discontinuities in this thesis show strong positive correlation beneath western North America and eastern Asia subduction zones with both discontinuities occurring at greater depths. Wavespeed and anisotropy models support vertical variations in thermal structure in the mid mantle, suggesting return flows from the lower mantle occur predominantly in the vicinity of stagnant slabs and the region overlying the stagnant slabs. In oceanic regions, the two discontinuities show a weak anti-correlation, indicating the existence of a secondary global far-field return flow.

The Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain is covered by extensive Cretaceous and Cenozoic marine sediments. In this thesis, the site response effects of sediments in the Coastal Plain region relative to the reference condition outside that region are investigated using Lg and coda spectral ratios. The high-frequency attenuation factors (kappa) in the Coastal Plain are strongly correlated with the sediment thickness. At frequencies between 0.1-2.86 Hz, the Lg spectral ratio amplitudes are modeled as functions of frequency and thickness of the sediments in the Coastal Plain. Analysis of the residuals from the stochastic ground motion prediction method suggests that incorporating the site response effects as functions of sediment thickness may improve ground motion prediction models for the Coastal Plain region.



mantle transition zone, body waves, mantle return flow, site response, ground motion prediction