Lithospheric layering in the North American craton

Huaiyu Yuan*, Barbara Romanowicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

363 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How cratons-extremely stable continental areas of the Earths crust-formed and remained largely unchanged for more than 2,500 million years is much debated. Recent studies of seismic-wave receiver function data have detected a structural boundary under continental cratons at depths too shallow to be consistent with the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary, as inferred from seismic tomography and other geophysical studies. Here we show that changes in the direction of azimuthal anisotropy with depth reveal the presence of two distinct lithospheric layers throughout the stable part of the North American continent. The top layer is thick (∼1/4150 km) under the Archaean core and tapers out on the surrounding Palaeozoic borders. Its thickness variations follow those of a highly depleted layer inferred from thermo-barometric analysis of xenoliths. The lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary is relatively flat (ranging from 180 to 240 km in depth), in agreement with the presence of a thermal conductive root that subsequently formed around the depleted chemical layer. Our findings tie together seismological, geochemical and geodynamical studies of the cratonic lithosphere in North America. They also suggest that the horizon detected in receiver function studies probably corresponds to the sharp mid-lithospheric boundary rather than to the more gradual lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1068
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume466
Issue number7310
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes

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