Seismic structure beneath the Tonga arc and Lau back-arc basin determined from joint Vp, Vp/Vs tomography

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Abstract

The Tonga arc and associated Lau basin exhibit many geologically important processes that link subduction and mantle flow with plate separation and crustal production. We create seismic tomograms of the Tonga-Lau region by jointly inverting for Vp and Vp/Vs structure using data from the LABATTS ocean bottom seismograph experiment and several island deployments to better constrain dynamic processes in the mantle wedge. Jointly using P and S data can help distinguish between the various mechanisms responsible for seismic velocity anomalies such as temperature and the presence of melt and/or volatiles. Because high attenuation in the wedge limits the S wave data set, we focus on 2-D inversions beneath the linear OBS array where resolution is best and also parameterize the solution in terms of the Vp/Vs ratio. As expected, the subducting slab has fast Vp and Vs and a low Vp/Vs ratio, consistent with the cold downgoing plate. The Central Lau Spreading Center (CLSC) exhibits stronger anomalies in Vp/Vs than in Vp, with the anomalies larger than would be predicted purely by temperature variations. The CLSC anomaly extends >100 km to the west of the axis, suggesting a broad region of melt production driven by passive upwelling from plate separation rather than active upwelling mechanisms. The anomaly is asymmetric about the axis, suggesting that slab-induced corner flow possibly influences mantle dynamics several hundred kilometers away from the arc. There is a strong anomaly beneath the volcanic arc that gradually deepens as it trends toward the back arc, likely outlining a hydrated region of melt production that feeds the volcanic front. Hydration possibly continues throughout the wedge to at least 400 km depth. The Lau ridge exhibits a thicker lithosphere relative to the rest of the Basin, while the Fiji platform likely has a thinner lithosphere than the Lau Ridge from more recent extension. There is also a reasonable likelihood of a small degree of partial melt in the uppermost mantle beneath the platform.

Ancillary