Abstract

Within Lithoprobe’s 10 transects, data from more than 20 000 km of multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection profiling and 12 refraction – wide-angle reflection (R/WAR) surveys were acquired. While the main results related to crustal structure, the data also indicated substantial heterogeneity in the lithospheric mantle. Images of fossilized subduction zones from the Eocene to the Neoarchean demonstrate that current plate tectonic processes have been active for more than 2.6 Ga. The Canadian Cordillera has a thin (50–60 km) lithosphere that is likely receiving some dynamic support from the asthenosphere below. Vestiges of the last stage of accretionary tectonic processes that formed the Archean Superior craton are indicated by an unusual anisotropic high velocity layer that may represent relic oceanic lithosphere. Within the Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson Orogen, a restricted region of upper mantle P-wave velocity anisotropy is identified with the continental collision between the bounding Hearne and Superior cratons. In the Archean Hearne and Wyoming provinces, two dipping structures within the sub-crustal lithosphere are interpreted as subduction features related to the assembly of the two cratons. Finite-difference modeling of long-offset data (over 1300 km) reveals fine-scale heterogeneities within a layer between 90 and 150 km in the continental lithosphere, perhaps formed through lateral flow or deformation within the upper mantle. Based on Lithoprobe data, heterogeneities within the lithospheric mantle are reasonably common. They have a wide range of seismic signatures, include many different types and show differing scales. Nevertheless, their extent in the lithospheric mantle is considerably less than in the crust.

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