Abstract

North America provides an important test for assessing the coupling of large continents with heterogeneous Archean- to Cenozoic-aged lithospheric provinces to the mantle flow. We use the unprecedented spatial coverage of the USArray seismic network to obtain an extensive and consistent data set of shear wave splitting intensity measurements at 1436 stations. Overall, the measurements are consistent with simple shear deformation in the asthenosphere due to viscous coupling to the overriding lithosphere. The fast directions agree with the absolute plate motion direction with a mean difference of 2° with 27° standard deviation. There are, however, deviations from this simple pattern, including a band along the Rocky Mountain front, indicative of flow complication due to gradients in lithospheric thickness, and variations in amplitude through the central United States, which can be explained through varying contributions of lithospheric anisotropy. Thus, seismic anisotropy may be sourced in both the asthenosphere and lithosphere, and variations in splitting intensity are due to lithospheric anisotropy developed during deformation over long time scales.

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