Moho vs crust-mantle boundary

Evolution of an idea

Suzanne Y. O'Reilly*, W. L. Griffin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The concept that the Mohorovicic Discontinuity (Moho) does not necessarily coincide with the base of the continental crust as defined by rock-type compositions was introduced in the early 1980s. This had an important impact on understanding the nature of the crust-mantle boundary using information from seismology and from deep-seated samples brought to the surface as xenoliths in magmas, or as tectonic terranes. The use of empirically-constrained P-T estimates to plot the locus of temperature vs depth for xenoliths defined a variety of geotherms depending on tectonic environment. The xenolith geotherms provided a framework for constructing lithological sections through the deep lithosphere, and revealed that the crust-mantle boundary in off-craton regions commonly is transitional over a depth range of about 5-20. km. Early seismic-reflection data showed common layering near the Moho, correlating with the petrological observation of multiple episodes of basaltic intrusion around the crust-mantle boundary.Developments in seismology, petrophysics and experimental petrology have refined interpretation of lithospheric domains. The expansion of in situ geochronology (especially zircon U-Pb ages and Hf-isotopes; Os isotopes of mantle sulfides) has defined tectonic events that affected whole crust-mantle sections, and revealed that the crust-mantle boundary can change in depth through time. However, the nature of the crust-mantle boundary in cratonic regions remains enigmatic, mainly due to lack of key xenoliths or exposed sections.The observation that the Moho may lie significantly deeper than the crust-mantle boundary has important implications for modeling the volume of the crust. Mapping the crust using seismic techniques alone, without consideration of the petrological problems, may lead to an overestimation of crustal thickness by 15-30%. This will propagate to large uncertainties in the calculation of elemental mass balances relevant to crust-formation processes, and the composition of the convecting mantle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-546
Number of pages12
JournalTectonophysics
Volume609
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2013

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