Insights into the structure and dynamics of the upper mantle beneath Bass Strait, southeast Australia, using shear wave splitting

M Bello* (Corresponding Author), D. G. Cornwell, N Rawlinson, A. M. Reading

*Corresponding author for this work

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We investigate the structure of the upper mantle using teleseismic shear wave splitting measurements obtained at 32 broadband seismic stations located in Bass Strait and the surrounding region of southeast Australia. Our dataset includes ~366 individual splitting measurements from SKS and SKKS phases. The pattern of seismic anisotropy from shear wave splitting analysis beneath the study area is complex and does not always correlate with magnetic lineaments or current N-S absolute plate motion. In the eastern Lachlan Fold Belt, fast shear waves are polarized parallel to the structural trend (~N25E). Further south, fast shear wave polarization directions trend on average N25-75E from the Western Tasmania Terrane through Bass Strait to southern Victoria, which is consistent with the presence of an exotic Precambrian microcontinent in this region as previously postulated. Stations located on and around the Neogene18 Quaternary Newer Volcanics Province in southern Victoria display sizeable delay times (~2.7 s). These values are among the largest in the world and hence require either an unusually large intrinsic anisotropy frozen within the lithosphere, or a contribution from both the lithospheric and asthenospheric mantle. In the Eastern Tasmania Terrane, nearly all observed fast directions are approximately NW-SE. Although part of our data set strongly favours anisotropy originating from “fabric” frozen in the lithospheric mantle, a contribution from the asthenospheric flow related to the present day plate motion is also required to explain the observed splitting parameters. We suggest that deviation of asthenospheric mantle flow around lithospheric roots could be occurring, and so variations in anisotropy related to mantle flow may be expected. Alternatively, the pattern of fast polarisation orientations observed around Bass Strait may be consistent with radial mantle flow associated with a plume linked to the recently discovered Cosgrove volcanic track. However, it is difficult to characterise the relative contributions to the observed splitting from the lithospheric vs. asthenospheric upper mantle due to poor backazimuthal coverage of the data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-62
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Early online date23 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

The work contained in this paper was conducted during a PhD study funded by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Nigeria and University of Aberdeen, UK. We thank field teams working through UTAS and ANU, and Armando Arcidiaco and Qi Li, ANU, for assistance with collection and archiving of the BASS data used in this study. Australian Research Council grant LP110100256 was instrumental in supporting the BASS deployment. We also thank Geoscience Australia and IRIS for providing part of the data used in this study.


  • mantle anisotropy
  • lithosphere
  • asthenosphere
  • shear-wave splitting
  • SKS/SKKS phases
  • southeast Australia
  • Lithosphere
  • Southeast Australia
  • Mantle anisotropy
  • Asthenosphere
  • Shear-wave splitting


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