Dynamics of the eastern edge of the Rio Grande Rift
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The Western U.S. has experienced widespread extension during the past 10’s of millions of years, largely within the Basin and Range and Rio Grande Rift provinces. Tomography results from previous studies revealed narrow fast seismic velocity anomalies in the mantle on either side of the Rio Grande Rift as well as at the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. The fast mantle anomalies have been interpreted as down-welling that is part of small scale mantle convection at the edge of extending provinces. It was also found that crust was thicker than average ab¬¬ove the possible mantle down-welling, indicating that mantle dynamics may influence crustal flow. We present results from P/S conversion receiver functions using SIEDCAR (Seismic Investigation of Edge Driven Convection Associated with the Rio Grande Rift) data to determine crustal and lithospheric structure beneath the east flank of the Rio Grande Rift. Crustal and lithosphere thickness are estimated using P-to-S and S-to-P receiver functions respectively. Receiver function migration methods were applied to produce images of the crust and lithosphere. The results show variable crustal thickness through the region with an average thickness of 45 km. The crust achieves its maximum thickness of 60km at 105W longitude, between 33.5N and 32.2N latitude. This observation confirms previous receiver function results from Wilson et al, 2005. Body wave tomography (Rocket, 2011; Schmandt and Humphreys, 2010) using similar data to what we used for the receiver function analysis, shows mantle downwelling closely associated with the thickened crust. We believe that the thickened crust might be due to lower crustal flow associated with mantle downwelling or mantle delamination at the edge of the Rio Grande Rift. In this model the sinking mantle pulls the crust downward causing a pressure gradient within the crust thus causing the flow. Our S-P images show signal from the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB) with an average LAB thickness of 100 km but with a sharp transition at about 1050 W from 75 km to over 100 km. The region with abnormally thick crust overlies a region where the lithosphere appears to have a break. We interpret our results as showing that lower lithosphere has and is delaminating near the edge of the Great Plains accompanied by lower crustal flow in some places determined by lower crustal viscosity.