Mantle P-wave velocity structure beneath the Hawaiian hotspot

TitleMantle P-wave velocity structure beneath the Hawaiian hotspot
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWolfe, CJ, Solomon, SC, Laske, G, Collins, JA, Detrick, RS, Orcutt, JA, Bercovici, D, Hauri, EH
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Date Publishedmar
Keywordsfinite-frequency tomography, Hawaii, hotspot, mantle plume

Three-dimensional images of P-wave velocity structure beneath the Hawaiian Islands, obtained from a network of seafloor and land seismometers, show an upper-mantle low-velocity anomaly that is elongated in the direction of the island chain and surrounded by a high-velocity anomaly in the shallow upper mantle that is parabolic in map view. Low velocities continue downward to the mantle transition zone between 410 and 660km depth and extend into the topmost lower mantle, although the resolution of lower mantle structure from this data set is limited. Comparisons of inversions with separate data sets at different frequencies suggest that contamination by water reverberations is not markedly biasing the P-wave imaging of mantle structure. Many aspects of the P-wave images are consistent with independent tomographic images of S-wave velocity in the region, but there are some differences in upper mantle structure between P-wave and S-wave velocities. Inversions without station terms show a southwestward shift in the location of lowest P-wave velocities in the uppermost mantle relative to the pattern for shear waves, and inversions with station terms show differences between P-wave and S-wave velocity heterogeneity in the shallow upper mantle beneath and immediately east of the island of Hawaii. Nonetheless, the combined data sets are in general agreement with the hypothesis that the Hawaiian hotspot is the result of an upwelling, high-temperature plume. The broad upper-mantle low-velocity region beneath the Hawaiian Islands may reflect the diverging “pancake” at the top of the upwelling zone; the surrounding region of high velocities could represent a downwelling curtain; and the low-velocity anomalies southeast of Hawaii in the transition zone and topmost lower mantle are consistent with predictions of plume tilt.


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