Mantle structure beneath Indonesia inferred from high-resolution tomographic imaging


  • Sri Widiyantoro,

    1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
    2. On leave from: Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bandung 40132, Indonesia.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Rob van der Hilst

    1. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA
    Search for more papers by this author


We investigated mantle structure beneath the Indonesian region by means of tomographic inversions of traveltime residuals of direct P and the surface-reflected depth phases pP and pwP. The hypocentres and phase data used in the inversions were derived from the reprocessing of data reported to international data centres, which include data from the Australian SKIPPY project. We used more than 6.0 × 106 data from more than 50 000 globally distributed earthquakes recorded at a subset of nearly 3000 seismological stations worldwide. The use of depth phases improved the sampling of the upper-mantle structure, in particular beneath the back-arc regions. The mapping of distant aspherical mantle structure into the study region was minimized by combining a high-resolution regional with a low-resolution global inversion. The inversion was linearized around the ak135 reference velocity model, and a combination of minimum norm and gradient damping was applied to constrain the solution. Inversion of different subsets of the data and test inversions of synthetic data indicate that resolution is sufficient to substantiate the conclusions pertinent to the complex large-scale structure of the subducted slab beneath the Indonesian archipelago.

The tomographic images confirm previous evidence for regional slab penetration into the upper part of the lower mantle but suggest a more complex trajectory of mantle flow beneath Indonesia. The implied lateral variation in the shape of the upper-mantle slab is generally in good agreement with inferences from seismicity. The data reveal a seismic anomaly beneath the Sunda arc, which is detected to at least 1500 km in depth and forms the eastern end of a deep anomaly associated with the past subduction of lithosphere of the Mesozoic Tethys ocean. Below Java the lithospheric slab is probably continuous from the Earth's surface to the lower mantle, but beneath Sumatra the deep slab seems to be detached from the seismogenic slab. The high-resolution images suggest that the subducted slab is deflected in the transition zone beneath the Banda arc and that the descending slabs form a spoon-shaped structure. North of the Banda Sea we detect the two opposing subducted slabs of the Molucca Sea plate; this is consistent with previous studies, but our images suggest that the westward subduction has a significantly steeper dip than the eastward subduction. Slab structure beneath the Banda and Molucca seas is explained in the context of the continent-arc collision between Australia and the southeast Indonesian Island arc, and the arc-arc collision between Sangihe and Halmahera. Inversion of traveltime residuals of direct S phases, a novelty for this region, largely confirms the inferences from the P-wave data, even though less detail is resolved.