Seismic scatterers in the lower mantle near subduction zones

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We investigate the global distribution of S-to-P scatterers in the shallow to mid-lower mantle beneath subduction zones, where deep seismicity extends down to the bottom of the upper mantle. By array processing broadband and short period waveform data obtained at seismic networks, we seek anomalous later phases in the P coda within about 15-150 s after direct P waves. The later phases usually arrive along off-great circle paths and significantly later than S-to-P conversion from the '660 km' discontinuity, often show positive slowness anomalies relative to direct P, and do not show a conversion depth that is consistent among nearby events. They are thus adequately regarded as scattered waves, rather than conversion at a global horizontal discontinuity. The S-to-P scattered waves often show amplitudes comparable to 'S660P' waves, which indicates that a spatial change in elastic properties by several percent occurs at the scatterers as abruptly as the post-spinel transformation and should arise from compositional heterogeneity. We locate prominent S-to-P scatterers beneath Pacific subduction zones and beneath southern Spain. Nearly half of 137 S-to-P scatterers located in this study and previous studies by the authors are shallower than 1000 km, and the number of scatterers decreases with depth. Scatterers deeper than 1800 km are rare and mostly weak. We examine relations between the locations of the scatterers and recently subducted slabs inferred from seismic tomography. The scatterers of mid-mantle depths, deeper than about 1000 km, are located distant from tomographic slabs. On the other hand, the majority of shallower scatterers are located beneath the slabs rather than near their fastest portions, which would indicate that chemically heterogeneous materials are not extensively entrained within thickened and folded slabs when the slabs impinge on the lower mantle. We also find scatterers near the locations where basaltic rocks of recently subducted oceanic crust are expected to exist, which suggests that oceanic crust is not delaminating when slabs impinge on the lower mantle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1891
Number of pages19
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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