Abstract

Normal Pn waves are commonly observed in Taiwan from shallow regional earthquakes at epicentral distances larger than 120 km, similar to the observations in many other continental regions. However, the critical distances to observe Pn waves for shallow eastern Taiwan earthquakes vary with azimuth corresponding to a significant variation of crustal thickness. In particular, anomalous Pn waves are commonly observed for shallow eastern Taiwan earthquakes recorded on seismic stations at epicentral distances as small as 60 km along the collision zone suture, the Longitudinal Valley. For the same event, normal Pn waves are observed at other seismic stations elsewhere on the island. The apparent velocity of the anomalous and normal Pn waves from the same event is 7.8 ± 0.15 km/sec, which is consistent with the average Pn velocity in the Taiwan area. Thus, the unusually short critical distance for Pn waves in eastern Taiwan suggests that the crust beneath the collision zone suture must be very thin and the upper mantle beneath the Longitudinal Valley must be relatively elevated compared with that beneath the other parts of Taiwan. Assuming a simple 1D layered velocity model, the Moho depth beneath the suture zone can thus be estimated at ∼23 ± 2 km. This observation is consistent with the recent report from a high-resolution 3D tomographic inversion that a narrowly confined, anomalously elevated, and north-northeast–south-southwest elongated oceanic upper mantle was imaged beneath the Longitudinal Valley from Hualien in the north to Taitung in the south (Kim et al., 2005, 2006). Furthermore, the preceding observations may also support the interpretation that the conduction of excess heat supply from the elevated hot oceanic upper mantle into the adjacent mid- to-lower continental crust over a long period of geological time may play an important role in the crustal deformation beneath the continent, including metamorphism, thickening, and uplifting.

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