The mantle transition zone beneath eastern North America: Receiver functions and tomographic velocity models

Alexander L. Burky, Jessica C.E. Irving, Frederik J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The eastern continental margin of North America, despite being a passive margin at present, records a comprehensive tectonic history of both mountain building and rifting events. This record is punctuated by several igneous events, including those associated with the Great Meteor and Bermuda hotspots. To gain a better understanding of the state of the mantle beneath this region, we employ the massive quantity of seismic data recorded by the USArray to image the mantle transition zone beneath eastern North America. To construct these images, we first calculate P-to-s receiver functions using an iterative time-domain deconvolution algorithm. These receiver functions are then automatically filtered by their quality, using a set of rigorous criteria, and subsequently summed using common conversion point stacking. We present several cross sections through these stacks, which show remarkable features such as a thinned transition zone beneath the independently observed northern Appalachian and central Appalachian low-wavespeed anomalies, as well as a thickened transition zone beneath western Tennessee associated with the Laramide slab stagnating at depth. In addition to discussing these geologically relevant features, we perform a technical analysis of the effects of using various seismic velocity models for the moveout correction of our receiver functions. We find that the thickness of the mantle transition zone under eastern North America is a robust measurement, while the resolved depths of the 410 and 660 km discontinuities are model dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107035
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Great Meteor hotspot
  • Laramide slab
  • Mantle transition zone
  • Receiver functions


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