D″ shear velocity heterogeneity, anisotropy and discontinuity structure beneath the Caribbean and Central America

Edward Garnero, Thorne Lay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The D″ region in the lowermost mantle beneath the Caribbean and Central America is investigated using shear waves from South American earthquakes recorded by seismic stations in North America. We present a large-scale, composite study of volumetric shear velocity heterogeneity, anisotropy, and the possible presence of a D″ discontinuity in the region. Our data set includes: 328 S(Sdiff)- SKS differential travel times, 300 ScS-S differential travel times, 125 S ( Sdiff) and 120 ScS shear wave splitting measurements, and 297 seismograms inspected for Scd, the seismic phase refracted from a high-velocity D″ layer. Broadband digital data are augmented by high-quality digitized analog WWSSN data, providing extensive path coverage in our study area. In all, data from 61 events are utilized. In some cases, a given seismogram can be used for velocity heterogeneity, anisotropy, and discontinuity analyses. Significant mid-mantle structure, possibly associated with the ancient subducted Farallon slab, affects shear wave travel times and must be corrected for to prevent erroneous mapping of D″ shear velocity. All differential times are corrected for contributions from aspherical mantle structure above D″ using a high-resolution tomography model. Travel time analyses demonstrate the presence of pervasive high velocities in D″, with the highest velocities localized to a region beneath Central America, approximately 500-700 km in lateral dimension. Short wavelength variability overprints this general high-velocity background. Corrections are also made for lithospheric anisotropy beneath the receivers. Shear wave splitting analyses of the corrected waveforms reveal D″ anisotropy throughout the study area, with a general correlation with heterogeneity strength. Evidence for Scd arrivals is pervasive across the study area, consistent with earlier work, but there are a few localized regions (100-200 km) lacking clear Scd arrivals, which indicates heterogeneity in the thickness or velocity gradients of the high-velocity layer. While small-scale geographic patterns of heterogeneity, anisotropy, and discontinuity are present, the details appear complex, and require higher resolution array analyses to fully characterize the structure. Explanations for the high-shear wave speeds, anisotropy, and reflector associated with D″ beneath the Caribbean and Central America must be applicable over a lateral scale of roughly 1500 km2, the dimension over which we observe coherent wavefield behavior in the region. A slab graveyard appears viable in this regard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-242
Number of pages24
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Nov 28 2003


  • Anisotropy
  • Core-mantle boundary
  • D″
  • Heterogeneity
  • Shear velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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