The teleseismic signature of fossil subduction: Northwestern Canada



[1] Between June 2003 and September 2005, 20 broadband, three-component seismometers were deployed along the MacKenzie-Liard Highway in Canada's Northwest Territories as part of the joint Lithoprobe-IRIS Canada Northwest Experiment (CANOE). These stations traverse a paleo-Proterozoic suture and subduction zone that has been previously documented to mantle depths using seismic reflection profiling. Teleseismic receiver functions computed from ∼250 earthquakes clearly reveal the response of the ancient subduction zone. On the radial component, the suture is evident as a direct conversion from the Moho, the depth of which increases from ∼30 km to ∼50 km over a horizontal distance of ∼70 km before its signature disappears. The structure is still better defined on the transverse component where the Moho appears as the upper boundary of a 10 km thick layer of anisotropy that can be traced from 30 km to at least 90 km depth. The seismic response of this layer is characterized by a frequency dependence that can be modeled by upper and lower boundaries that are discontinuous in material properties and their gradients, respectively. Anisotropy can be characterized by a ±5% variation in shear velocity and hexagonal symmetry with a fast axis that plunges at an oblique angle to the subduction plane. The identification of this structure provides an unambiguous connection between fossil subduction and fine-scale, anisotropic mantle layering. Previous documentation of similar layering below the adjacent Slave province and from a range of Precambrian terranes across the globe provides strong support for the thesis that early cratonic blocks were stabilized through processes of shallow subduction.