Modification of continental lithosphere by tectonic processes: A tomographic image of central North America

A. W. Frederiksen*, T. Bollmann, F. Darbyshire, S. Van Der Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


The assembly of Laurentia by Precambrian accretion is also believed to have formed the underlying lithosphere. Accretionary signatures are detectable by seismic observations but subject to modification by later processes, e.g., orogeny, rifting, and plumes. We examine the Archean Superior Province (SP) and environs using a set of teleseismic P wave arrivals from Canadian and American instruments. The resulting tomographic model has high resolution beneath the Dakotas and Minnesota, provides a first look at the lithosphere beneath Manitoba, and sharpens previously documented features in Ontario. From the model and previous anisotropy observations, we detect (i) a large high-velocity feature beneath the western SP, associated with elevated lithospheric anisotropy. The high-velocity feature does not match crustal boundaries; notably, its western edge lies approximately 200 km east of the contact with the Proterozoic Trans-Hudson Orogen (THO). (ii) A low-velocity channel-shaped feature strikes northwest through Minnesota and the Dakotas, associated with weakening anisotropy. (iii) High velocities southwest of (ii), beneath the Minnesota River Valley terrane (MRVT), associated with low anisotropy. We interpret (i) to be accretionary, and contemporaneous with Superior assembly; similar velocity but weaker anisotropy of the MRVT is consistent with vertical-tectonic mechanisms. The inboard location of the THO contact may indicate modification of the Superior root. The low-velocity channel has no obvious crustal expression but connects to an offset in the Proterozoic Mid-Continent Rift (MCR) and may be rift related. The MCR is not well imaged but will be examined via the temporary Superior Province Rifting EarthScope Experiment, in progress. Key Points New seismic image of central North American lithosphere High-velocity, anisotropic Western Superior mantle anomaly Low-velocity channel beneath Dakotas

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1066
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • Laurentia
  • Superior
  • lithosphere
  • rift
  • tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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