How the crust meets the mantle: Lithoprobe perspectives on the mohorovičić discontinuity and crust-mantle transition

Frederick A. Cook, Donald J. White, Alan G. Jones, David W S Eaton, Jeremy Hall, Ronald M. Clowes

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85 Citations (Scopus)


Application of regional geophysical and geological methods throughout two decades of Canada's Lithoprobe project provides new opportunities to analyze the Mohorovičić discontinuity (Moho) and crust-mantle transition. The transect format employed during Lithoprobe, in which 10 specified regions of Canada were targeted for approximately a decade each, between 1984 and 2003, permitted teams of scientists to focus on geological, geophysical, and tectonic issues for each transect. As a primary objective was to enhance knowledge of the structure of the crust and lithosphere, an obvious target in each transect was the nature and origin of the Moho and crust-mantle transition. Accordingly, the combined results provide new perspectives on the Moho and the relationship of the Moho to the crust-mantle transition. Perhaps the most important result is that the continental geophysical Moho is a deceptively simple feature; it has a variety of signatures at different scales that preclude a single, universally applicable interpretation. In methods that provide large-scale information, such as regional seismic studies, it is a relatively abrupt refraction velocity contrast that often displays a dramatic downward decrease in seismic reflectivity. However, its origin in a geological or tectonic sense is perhaps best determined by careful analyses of structural details near the geophysical Moho, which are complex and varied. In some areas within Canada, it appears that the geophysical Moho may be old and perhaps remains from the time the crust formed; in other areas, it appears to be a relatively young feature that was superimposed onto older crustal fabrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-351
Number of pages37
JournalCanadian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


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