The crustal thickness of West Antarctica

J. Chaput, R. C. Aster, A. Huerta, X. Sun, A. Lloyd, D. Wiens, A. Nyblade, S. Anandakrishnan, J. P. Winberry, T. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

P-to-S receiver functions (PRFs) from the Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET) GPS and seismic leg of POLENET spanning West Antarctica and the Transantarctic Mountains deployment of seismographic stations provide new estimates of crustal thickness across West Antarctica, including the West Antarctic Rift System (WARS), Marie Byrd Land (MBL) dome, and the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM) margin. We show that complications arising from ice sheet multiples can be effectively managed and further information concerning low-velocity subglacial sediment thickness may be determined, via top-down utilization of synthetic receiver function models. We combine shallow structure constraints with the response of deeper layers using a regularized Markov chain Monte Carlo methodology to constrain bulk crustal properties. Crustal thickness estimates range from 17.0±4 km at Fishtail Point in the western WARS to 45±5 km at Lonewolf Nunataks in the TAM. Symmetric regions of crustal thinning observed in a transect deployment across the West Antarctic Ice Sheet correlate with deep subice basins, consistent with pure shear crustal necking under past localized extension. Subglacial sediment deposit thicknesses generally correlate with trough/dome expectations, with the thickest inferred subice low-velocity sediment estimated as ∼0.4 km within the Bentley Subglacial Trench. Inverted PRFs from this study and other published crustal estimates are combined with ambient noise surface wave constraints to generate a crustal thickness map for West Antarctica south of 75°S. Observations are consistent with isostatic crustal compensation across the central WARS but indicate significant mantle compensation across the TAM, Ellsworth Block, MBL dome, and eastern and western sectors of thinnest WARS crust, consistent with low density and likely dynamic, low-viscosity high-temperature mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-395
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume119
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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