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Published October 2002 | Published
Journal Article Open

Three-dimensional lithospheric structure below the New Zealand Southern Alps

  • 1. ROR icon California Institute of Technology


Uppermost mantle seismic structure below the Southern Alps in South Island, New Zealand, is investigated by teleseismic P wave travel time residual inversion. The three-dimensional tomographic images show a near-vertical, high-velocity (2–4%) structure in the uppermost mantle that directly underlies thickened crust along the NNESSW axis of the Southern Alps. The center of the high-velocity anomaly lies to the east of the Alpine fault which bounds Pacific and Australian plate rocks. The oblique collision of these plates resulted in the uplift of the Southern Alps during the past 5–7 m.y. Also, a high-velocity anomaly (3–5%) corresponding to the Hikurangi subduction zone lies to the northeast of the Southern Alps anomaly, and low-velocity anomalies (-3%) underlying parts of northwestern and southern South Island may be signatures of late Tertiary extension and volcanism. The data consist of teleseismic arrival times from the New Zealand National Seismograph Network and arrival times recorded during the 1995–1996 Southern Alps Passive Seismic Experiment. Crustal heterogeneity was accounted for by back projecting the rays through an independently obtained three-dimensional crustal velocity and Moho depth model. The Southern Alps uppermost mantle velocity anomalies are most simply explained by lithospheric thickening below the center of convergence accompanied by thinning and asthenospheric upwelling adjacent to the region of convergence.

Additional Information

© 2002 by the American Geophysical Union. 

Attached Files

Published - Kohler_et_al-2002-Journal_of_Geophysical_Research__Solid_Earth__1978-2012_.pdf


This work was supported by NSF grant EAR-9805224 and the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology. Special thanks go to Tom McEvilly and Helen Anderson for envisioning and carrying out the Southern Alps Passive Seismic Experiment (NSF EAR-9418530) and the IRIS Data Management Center for providing data and technical support. We appreciate discussions with Peter Koons, Rupert Sutherland, Peter Molnar, and Paul Davis. The comments of two anonymous reviewers were especially helpful in strengthening the resolution discussion. This is Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences contribution 2213.



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August 19, 2023
March 13, 2024