Abstract

The velocity structure of the continental crust on the outer shelf of southwestern Greenland is determined from dense wide-angle reflection–refraction data obtained with large air-gun sources and ocean bottom seismometers along a 230 km seismic line. This line crosses the geological boundary between the Archean block and the Ketilidian mobile belt. Although the data have high noise levels, P- and S-wave arrivals from within the upper, intermediate, and lower crust, and at the Moho boundary, can be consistently identified and correlated with one-dimensional WKBJ synthetic seismograms. In the Archean, P- and S-wave velocities in the upper crust are 6.0 and 3.4 km/s, while in the intermediate crust they are 6.4 and 3.6 km/s. These velocities match for the upper crust a quartz–feldspar gneiss composition and for the intermediate crust an amphibolitized pyroxene granulite. In the Ketilidian mobile belt, P- and S-wave velocities are 5.6 and 3.3 km/s for the upper crust and 6.3 and 3.6 km/s for the intermediate crust. These velocities may represent quartz granite in the upper crust and granite and granitic gneiss in the intermediate crust. The upper crust is ~5 km thick in the Archean block and the Ketilidian mobile belt, and thickens to ~9 km in the southern part of the Archean. This velocity structure supports a Precambrian collisional mechanism between the Archean block and Ketilidian mobile belt. The lower crust has a small vertical velocity gradient from 6.6 km/s at 15 km depth to 6.9 km/s at 30 km depth (Moho) along the refraction line, with a nearly constant S-wave velocity around 3.8 km/s. These velocities likely represent a gabbroic and hornblende granulite composition for the lower crust. This typical (but somewhat thin) Precambrian crustal velocity structure in southwestern Greenland shows no evidence for a high-velocity, lower crustal, underplated layer caused by the Mesozoic opening of the Labrador Sea.

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