Imaging of seismic velocity discontinuities along a 3000 km profile across central South America at 20°S suggests that the depth variations of the 410-km (d410) and 660-km (d660) discontinuities are closely associated with the high-velocity Nazca slab and juxtaposed low-velocity oceanic mantle beneath the slab. The mantle transition zone thickness ranges from 220 km in the oceanic mantle to 270 km in a 600-km-wide area occupied by the deflected Nazca slab. The slab deflection has also been suggested by previous studies of seismic tomography and seismicity. This 50 km difference in the thickness corresponds to a lateral temperature variation of about 370°C between the two areas. The depth of d410 shows a gradual eastward decrease of about 10 km along the profile, corresponding to a temperature that is about 75°C cooler to the east. This variation is probably related to changes in the upper mantle geotherms associated with the transition from tectonically active to stable upper mantle. A low-velocity anomaly in the upper mantle and mantle transition zone beneath eastern Brazil, previously detected by seismic tomography and interpreted as a fossil plume, produced no detectable perturbation in transition zone thickness. It is thus unlikely to extend to the transition zone or alternatively is not thermal in origin. Finally, we have observed several possible second-order discontinuities at the depths of 230, 500, 600, 840, and 915 km beneath the western part of the study area.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

410; 660; Mantle discontinuities; Nazca; Subduction; layered medium; lithospheric structure; mantle structure; seismic velocity; South America

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

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© 2003 American Geophysical Union (AGU), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Nov 2003

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Geology Commons