Seismic anisotropy and mantle flow beneath the northern Great Plains of North America



A diverse set of tectonic features and the recent availability of high-quality broadband seismic data from the USArray and other stations on the northern Great Plains of North America provide a distinct opportunity to test different anisotropy-forming mechanisms. A total of 4138 pairs of well-defined splitting parameters observed at 445 stations show systematic spatial variations of anisotropic characteristics. Azimuthally invariant fast orientations subparallel to the absolute plate motion (APM) direction are observed at most of the stations on the Superior Craton and the southern Yavapai province, indicating that a single layer of anisotropy with a horizontal axis of symmetry is sufficient to explain the anisotropic structure. For areas with simple anisotropy, the application of a procedure for estimating the depth of anisotropy using spatial coherency of splitting parameters results in a depth of 200–250 km, suggesting that the observed anisotropy mostly resides in the upper asthenosphere. In the vicinity of the northern boundary of the Yavapai province and the Wyoming Craton, the splitting parameters can be adequately explained by a two-horizontal layer model. The lower layer has an APM-parallel fast orientation, and the upper layer has a fast orientation that is mostly consistent with the regional strike of the boundary. Based on the splitting measurements and previous results from seismic tomography and geodynamic modeling, we propose a model involving deflecting of asthenosphere flow by the bottom of the lithosphere and channeling of flow by a zone of thinned lithosphere approximately along the northern boundary of the Yavapai province.