Imaging Variations in the Central Andean Mantle and the Subducting Nazca Slab with Teleseismic Tomography
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe Nazca-South America convergent margin is marked by the presence of the Andean mountain belt, which stretches along the 8000-km long western margin of the South American plate. The subduction zone is characterized by significant along-strike changes in both upper plate structure and slab geometry that make it an ideal region to study the relationship between the subducting slab, the surrounding mantle, and the overriding plate. This dissertation summarizes the results of three finite frequency teleseismic tomography studies of the central Nazca-South America subduction zone which improve our understanding of how along-strike variations in the Andean mountain belt and the subducting Nazca plate interact with each other and with the surrounding mantle. This is accomplished by first focusing on two smaller adjacent regions of the central Andes to explore upper mantle variations and then by using a combined dataset, which covers a larger region, to image the deeply subducted Nazca slab to investigate the fate of the slab. The first study focuses on the central Andean upper mantle under the Altiplano-Puna Plateau where normally dipping subduction of the Nazca plate is occurring (18Â° to 28Â°S). The shallow mantle under the Eastern Cordillera is generally fast, consistent with either underthrusting of the Brazilian cratonic lithosphere from the east or a localized "curtain" of delaminating material. Additional evidence for delamination is seen in the form of high amplitude low velocities under the Puna Plateau, consistent with proposed asthenospheric influx following lithospheric removal. In the second study, we explore the transition between normal and flat subduction along the north edge of the Altiplano Plateau (8Â° to 21Â°S). We find that the Peruvian flat slab extends further inland along the projection of the Nazca Ridge than was previously proposed and that when re-steepening of the slab occurs, the slab dips very steeply (~70Â°) down through the mantle transition zone (MTZ). We also tentatively propose a ridge parallel tear along the north edge of the Nazca Ridge. Both of these observations imply that the presence of the Nazca Ridge is at least locally influencing the geometry of the flat slab. The final study investigates along-strike variations in the deeply subducted Nazca slab along much of the central Nazca-South America subduction zone (6Â° to 32Â°S). Our results confirm that the Nazca slab continues subducting into the lower mantle rather than remaining stagnant in the MTZ. Thickening of the slab in the MTZ north of 16Â°S is interpreted as folding or buckling of the slab in response to the decreased slab sinking velocities in the lower mantle.
Degree ProgramGraduate College