Shear wave splitting and upper mantle deformation in French Polynesia: Evidence for small-scale heterogeneity related to the Society hotspot

R. M. Russo*, E. A. Okal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

We determined shear wave splitting parameters at four island sites in French Polynesia: Tiputa (TPT) on Rangiroa in the Tuamotu archipelago; Papeete (PPT) on Tahiti in the Society Islands; Tubuai (TBI) in the Cook-Austral island chain; and Rikitea (RKT) on Mangareva in the Gambier Islands. We also examined splitting at Pitcairn (PTCN) on Pitcairn Island; because of the short time of operation of PTCN, our results there are preliminary. We find substantial differences in splitting, most likely caused by variable upper mantle deformation beneath the five stations. At TPT the fast split shear wave (φ) direction is N66° W±4°, parallel to the current Pacific-hotspots relative motion (APM) vector; the delay time between fast and slow waves is 1.3 ± 0.2 s. At PPT, on Tahiti, we could detect no splitting despite many clear SKS observations. At TBI, on Tubuai we detected splitting with a delay time of 1.1 ± 0.1 s and a φ direction midway between the local APM direction and the fossil spreading direction (N86° W±2°), as locally indicated by the nearby Austral Fracture Zone. At RKT in the Gambier Islands, φ trends N53° W±6°, 16° clockwise of the local APM azimuth, and delay time at RKT is 1.1 ± 0.1 s. Results at PTCN include φ near N38° W±9° and a delay time of 1.1 ± 0.3 s. These different results imply variable upper mantle deformation beneath the five sites. We interpret splitting at TPT and, possibly, RKT as indicative of asthenospheric flow or shear in the APM direction beneath the stations. At PPT, azimuthal isotropy indicates deformed upper mantle with a vertical symmetry axis, or absence of strong or consistently oriented mantle deformation fabric beneath Tahiti. Either effect could be related to recent hotspot magmatism on Tahiti. At TBI, splitting may be complicated by juxtaposition of different lithospheric thicknesses along the nearby Austral Fracture Zone, resulting in perturbation of asthenospheric flow. The absence of splitting related to fossil spreading in French Polynesia indicates that upper mantle deformation processes postdating lithosphere formation are important at all four sites within that region. The φ azimuth at PTCN does not align with either the fossil direction or the APM direction, but our best individual determination of splitting parameters at this station lies within 10° of the local APM at Pitcairn Island.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15089-15107
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume103
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 10 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography

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