Upper mantle seismic structure beneath central East Antarctica from body wave tomography: Implications for the origin of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains



[1] The Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains (GSM), located near the center of East Antarctica, are the highest feature within the East Antarctic highlands and have been investigated seismically for the first time during the 2007/2008 International Polar Year by the Gamburtsev Mountains Seismic Experiment. Using data from a network of 26 broadband seismic stations and body wave tomography, the P and S wave velocity structure of the upper mantle beneath the GSM and adjacent regions has been examined. Tomographic images produced from teleseismic P and S phases reveal several large-scale, small amplitude anomalies (δVp = 1.0%, δVs = 2.0%) in the upper 250 km of the mantle. The lateral distributions of these large-scale anomalies are similar in both the P and S wave velocity models and resolution tests show that they are well resolved. Velocity anomalies indicate slower, thinner lithosphere beneath the likely Meso- or Neoproterozoic Polar Subglacial Basin and faster, thicker lithosphere beneath the likely Archean/Paleoproterozoic East Antarctic highlands. Within the region of faster, thicker lithosphere, a lower amplitude (δVp = 0.5%, δVs = 1.0%) slow to fast velocity pattern is observed beneath the western flank of the GSM, suggesting a suture between two lithospheric blocks possibly of similar age. These findings point to a Precambrian origin for the high topography of the GSM, corroborating other studies invoking a long-lived highland landscape in central East Antarctica, as opposed to uplift caused by Permian/Cretaceous rifting or Cenozoic magmatism. The longevity of the GSM makes them geologically unusual; however, plausible analogs exist, such as the 550 Ma Petermann Ranges in central Australia. Additional uplift may have occurred by the reactivation of pre-existing faults, for example, during the Carboniferous-Permian collision of Gondwana and Laurussia.