Compositional Attributes of the Deep Continental Crust Inferred From Geochemical and Geophysical Data

Laura G. Sammon, William F. McDonough, Walter D. Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study provides a global assessment of the abundance of the major oxides in the deep continental crust. The combination of geochemistry and seismology better constrains the composition of the middle and lower continental crust better than either discipline can achieve alone. The inaccessible nature of the deep crust (typically >15 km) forces reliance on analog samples and modeling results to interpret its bulk composition, evolution, and physical properties. A common practice relates major oxide compositions of small- to medium-scale samples (e.g., medium to high metamorphic grade terrains and xenoliths) to large scale measurements of seismic velocities (Vp, Vs, Vp/Vs) to determine the composition of the deep crust. We provide a framework for building crustal models with multidisciplinary constraints on composition. We present a global deep crustal model that documents compositional changes with depth and accounts for uncertainties in Moho depth, temperature, and physical and chemical properties. Our 3D compositional model of the deep crust uses the USGS Global Seismic Structure Catalog (Mooney, 2015) and a compilation of geochemical analyses on amphibolite and granulite facies lithologies (Sammon & McDonough, 2021, We find a SiO2 gradient from 61.2 ± 7.3 to 53.3 ± 4.8 wt.% from the middle to the base of the crust, with the equivalent lithological gradient ranging from quartz monzonite to gabbronorite. In addition, we calculate trace element abundances as a function of depth from their correlations with major oxides. From here, other lithospheric properties, such as Moho heat flux ((Formula presented.) mW/m2), are derived.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JB024041
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug


  • crust composition
  • geochemical
  • geophysical
  • lower crust
  • middle crust
  • seismology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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