Throughout the oceanic asthenosphere there exists a zone of seismic velocities that are lower than would be predicted. The cause of this low velocity zone (LVZ), whether partial melt or solid-state mechanisms, has been debated for decades. We investigate the LVZ by considering seismic and magnetotelluric data from tectonically stable, ∼70 Myr old lithosphere in the central Pacific Ocean. We utilise recent experimental advances on the influence of partial melt and seismic attenuation. Results show that the LVZ is characterised by a small volume of interconnected melt and by low hydrogen contents. Beneath the LVZ, the asthenosphere does not contain partial melt but has high hydrogen contents and low attenuation values, indicating large grain sizes and/or low oxygen fugacities. To explain these observations, we propose that a small amount of unextractable melt is trapped in the asthenosphere after melting at mid-ocean ridges.
- low velocity zone