• Key words:;
  • mantle discontinuities;
  • seismic reflectors;
  • upper mantle.

Long-period precursors to SS resulting from underside reflections off upper mantle discontinuities (SdS where d is the discontinuity depth) can be used to map the global distribution and depth of these reflectors. We analyse 5,884 long-period seismograms from the Global Digital Seismograph Network (1976-1987, shallow sources, transverse component) in order to identify SdS arrivals. Corrections for velocity dispersion, topography and crustal thickness at the SS bounce point, and lateral variation in mantle velocity are critical for obtaining accurate estimates of discontinuity depths. The 410 and 660 km discontinuities are observed at average depths of 413 and 653 km, and exhibit large-scale coherent patterns of topography with depth variations up to 40 km. These patterns are roughly correlated with recent tomographic models, with fast anomalies in the transition zone associated with highs in the 410 km discontinuity and lows in the 660 km discontinuity, a result consistent with laboratory measurements of Clapeyron slopes for the appropriate phase changes. The best resolved feature in these maps is a trough in the 660 km discontinuity in the northwest Pacific, which appears to be associated with the subduction zones in this region. Amplitude variations in SdS arrivals are not correlated with discontinuity depths and probably result from focusing and defocusing effects along the ray paths. The SdS arrivals suggest the presence of regional reflectors in the upper mantle above 400 km. However, only the strongest of these features are above probable noise levels due to sampling inadequacies.