Constraints on the seismic properties of the middle and lower continental crust

Geoffery E Lloyd, Robert William Hope Butler, Martin Casey, D. J. Tatham, David Mainprice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


For the past two decades geodetic measurements have quantified surface displacement fields for the continents, illustrating a general complexity. However, the linkage of geodetically defined displacements in the continents to mantle flow and plate tectonics demands understanding of ductile deformations in the middle and lower continental crust. Advances in seismic anisotropy studies are beginning to allow such work, especially in the Himalaya and Tibet, using passive seismological experiments (e.g. teleseismic receiver functions and records from local earthquakes). Although there is general agreement that measured seismic anisotropy in the middle and lower crust reflects bulk mineral alignment (i.e. crystallographic preferred orientation, CPO), there is a need to calibrate the seismic response to deformation structures and their kinematics. Here, we take on this challenge by deducing the seismic properties of typical mid- and lower-crustal rocks that have experienced ductile deformation through quantitative measures of CPO in samples from appropriate outcrops. The effective database of CPO and hence seismic properties can be expanded by a modelling approach that utilizes ‘rock recipes’ derived from the as-measured individual mineral CPOs combined in varying modal proportions. In addition, different deformation fabrics may be diagnostic of specific deformation kinematics that can serve to constrain interpretations of seismic anisotropy data from the continental crust. Thus, the use of ‘fabric recipes’ based on subsets of individual rock fabric CPO allows the effect of different fabrics (e.g. foliations) to be investigated and interpreted from their seismic response. A key issue is the possible discrimination between continental crustal deformation models with strongly localized simple-shear (ductile fault) fabrics from more distributed (‘pure-shear’) crustal flow. The results of our combined rock and fabric-recipe modelling suggest that the seismic properties of the middle and lower crust depend on deformation state and orientation as well as composition, while reliable interpretation of seismic survey data should incorporate as many seismic properties as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-32
Number of pages25
JournalGeological Society Special Publications
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • seismic anisotropy
  • crustal strain
  • Himalaya


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