Seismic investigation of the lithosphere by means of active source experiments is mostly confined to the crust and the Moho. Structures in the upper mantle are more likely to be discovered by analyses of teleseismic data, although these methods are restricted in their resolution capabilities. The relatively rare evidence for upper mantle refractors or reflectors in active source data enables challenging and interesting studies of the lower and not so well known part of the lithosphere. We present such an example from the tectonically complex region between the Eastern Alps and the Western Carpathians. This area was covered by several extensive 3D wide-angle reflection/refraction experiments within the last decade, and their layout was designed to illuminate the crustal structure and in particular the Moho discontinuity. In some areas, reflections from below the Moho are also recorded. These reflections occur at recording offsets between 200 and 500. km, and they are particularly strong in cross line recordings. We derive a set of travel times from the data and perform a tomographic inversion for the depth and shape of the reflecting interface. The inversion makes use of an existing 3D crustal model which also includes the Moho topography. Since the upper mantle velocities are poorly constrained and the azimuthal distribution of the rays is biassed, several tests are applied to investigate the reliability of possible solutions. The results from the tomographic inversion indicate an overall horizontal and radially dipping reflector. The average depth of the reflector is 55. km, which is about 25. km below the crust-mantle transition, and amplitude modelling suggests that the reflecting interface represents a velocity increase. The investigated area is further characterised by deep sedimentary basins, high heat flow, high velocities in the lower crust, diffuse Moho signature and a strong positive Bouguer anomaly. Nearby xenolith outcrops exhibit a pronounced change in anisotropy and indicate the presence of two distinct layers in the lithospheric mantle, whereas the deeper layer is thought to present more juvenile lithosphere derived from thermal relaxation in the post-extension phase. Most likely the upper mantle reflector also represents this change in anisotropy, though other scenarios are also possible. We conclude that the entire lithosphere is significantly shaped by extensional processes which affect the area since the late Oligocene/early Miocene.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes