Underplating of the Hawaiian Swell: evidence from teleseismic receiver functions

TitleUnderplating of the Hawaiian Swell: evidence from teleseismic receiver functions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsLeahy, GM, Collins, JA, Wolfe, CJ, Laske, G, Solomon, SC
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Date Publishedoct

The Hawaiian Islands are the canonical example of an age-progressive island chain, formed by volcanism long thought to be fed from a hotspot source that is more or less fixed in the mantle. Geophysical data, however, have so far yielded contradictory evidence on subsurface structure. The substantial bathymetric swell is supportive of an anomalously hot upper mantle, yet seafloor heat flow in the region does not appear to be enhanced. The accumulation of magma beneath pre-existing crust (magmatic underplating) has been suggested to add chemical buoyancy to the swell, but to date the presence of underplating has been constrained only by local active-source experiments. In this study, teleseismic receiver functions derived from seismic events recorded during the PLUME project were analysed to obtain a regional map of crustal structure for the Hawaiian Swell. This method yields results that compare favourably with those from previous studies, but permits a much broader view than possible with active-source seismic experiments. Our results indicate that the crustal structure of the Hawaiian Islands is quite complicated and does not conform to the standard model of sills fed from a central source. We find that a shallow P-to-s conversion, previously hypothesized to result from the volcano-sediment interface, corresponds more closely to the boundary between subaerial and subaqueous extrusive material. Correlation between uplifted bathymetry at ocean-bottom-seismometer locations and presence of underplating suggests that much of the Hawaiian Swell is underplated, whereas a lack of underplating beneath the moat surrounding the island of Hawaii suggests that underplated crust outward of the moat has been fed from below by dykes through the lithosphere rather than by sills spreading from the island centre. Local differences in underplating may reflect focusing of magma-filled dykes in response to stress from volcanic loading. Finally, widespread underplating adds chemical buoyancy to the swell, reducing the amplitude of a mantle thermal anomaly needed to match bathymetry and supporting observations of normal heat flow.


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