Mantle Dynamics of the North China Craton: New Insights from Mantle Transition Zone Imaging Constrained by P-To-S Receiver Functions


Cratons are generally defined as stable continental blocks with a strong cratonic root that typically is at least ∼200 km thick. Many cratons have undergone little internal tectonism and destruction since their formation, but some of them, such as the eastern part of the North China Craton (NCC), the Dharwar Craton and the Wyoming Craton, have lost their thick cratonic root and become reactivated in recent geological history, leading to widespread Meso-Cenozoic volcanisms. The mechanisms responsible for such decratonization remain debated. To provide new constraints on models leading to decratonization, in this study we stack 612 854 source-normalized P-to-S conversions (receiver functions or RFs) from the 410 and 660 km discontinuities (d410 and d660, respectively) bordering the mantle transition zone (MTZ) recorded at 1986 stations in the NCC. Both the number of RFs and the number of stations are unprecedented in the study area. The average apparent depths of the d410 and d660 and the thickness of the MTZ are 413 ± 6, 669 ± 8 and 255 ± 6 km, respectively. A depression of up to 37 km and mean 11 km of the d660 are clearly observed beneath the eastern NCC, mainly caused by the possible existence of a relatively large amount of water in the MTZ. Our study provides strong observational evidence for geodynamic modelling that suggests water in the MTZ can be driven out into the upper mantle by poloidal mantle flow induced by the subduction and retreat of subducted oceanic slabs. The results are consistent with the weakening of the lithosphere beneath the eastern NCC by the release of water (in the form of structurally bound H/OH) brought down to the MTZ by subduction of the Pacific slab. Continuous slab dehydration and the ascent of fluids would have triggered intraplate volcanism and mantle upwelling in the eastern NCC, as evidenced by the spatial correspondence among the lower-than-normal upper-mantle seismic velocities, unusually large depressions of the d660, Cenozoic basaltic volcanism and thinning of the cratonic lithosphere.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Asia; Body Waves; Cratons; Dynamics: Seismotectonics; Subduction Zone Processes

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1365-246X; 0956-540X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





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Publication Date

01 Oct 2022

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