Abstract

Many studies have shown that typical oceanic lithosphere is underlain by a well-developed asthenosphere characterized by slow seismic velocities from ~100 to 250 km depth. However, the fate of the oceanic asthenosphere at subduction zones is poorly understood. I show here using shear-wave splitting of S waves emanating from earthquakes in the Juan de Fuca slab that upper mantle asthenospheric anisotropy beneath the slab is consistent with the presence of two distinct subducted asthenospheric layers, one with fast shear trends parallel to the subduction trench, and a second, deeper layer with fast upper mantle fabrics parallel to the motion of the Juan de Fuca plate with respect to the deeper mantle. The consistent orientation of unsubducted Pacific asthenospheric anisotropy in the direction of current plate motion implies that the trench-parallel, subslab anisotropy develops when the lithosphere subducts.

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