P-wave tomography of the western United States: Insight into the Yellowstone hotspot and the Juan de Fuca slab

You Tian, Dapeng Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


We used 190,947 high-quality P-wave arrival times from 8421 local earthquakes and 1,098,022 precise travel-time residuals from 6470 teleseismic events recorded by the EarthScope/USArray transportable array to determine a detailed three-dimensional P-wave velocity model of the crust and mantle down to 1000. km depth under the western United States (US). Our tomography revealed strong heterogeneities in the crust and upper mantle under the western US. Prominent high-velocity anomalies are imaged beneath Idaho Batholith, central Colorado Plateau, Cascadian subduction zone, stable North American Craton, Transverse Ranges, and Southern Sierra Nevada. Prominent low-velocity anomalies are imaged at depths of 0-200. km beneath Snake River Plain, which may represent a small-scale convection beneath the western US. The low-velocity structure deviates variably from a narrow vertical plume conduit extending down to ~1000. km depth, suggesting that the Yellowstone hotspot may have a lower-mantle origin. The Juan de Fuca slab is imaged as a dipping high-velocity anomaly under the western US. The slab geometry and its subducted depth vary in the north-south direction. In the southern parts the slab may have subducted down to >600. km depth. A " slab hole" is revealed beneath Oregon, which shows up as a low-velocity anomaly at depths of ~100 to 300. km. The formation of the slab hole may be related to the Newberry magmatism. The removal of flat subducted Farallon slab may have triggered the vigorous magmatism in the Basin and Range and southern part of Rocky Mountains and also resulted in the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-84
Number of pages13
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jun


  • Juan de Fuca slab
  • Mantle plume
  • Seismic tomography
  • Structure heterogeneity
  • Western United States
  • Yellowstone hotspot


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