Absolute plate velocities from seismic anisotropy: Importance of correlated errors
Gordon, Richard G.
The errors in plate motion azimuths inferred from shear wave splitting beneath any one tectonic plate are shown to be correlated with the errors of other azimuths from the same plate. To account for these correlations, we adopt a two-tier analysis: First, find the pole of rotation and confidence limits for each plate individually. Second, solve for the best fit to these poles while constraining relative plate angular velocities to consistency with the MORVEL relative plate angular velocities. Our preferred set of angular velocities, SKS-MORVEL, is determined from the poles from eight plates weighted proportionally to the root-mean-square velocity of each plate. SKS-MORVEL indicates that eight plates (Amur, Antarctica, Caribbean, Eurasia, Lwandle, Somalia, Sundaland, and Yangtze) have angular velocities that differ insignificantly from zero. The net rotation of the lithosphere is 0.25 ± 0.11° Ma−1 (95% confidence limits) right handed about 57.1°S, 68.6°E. The within-plate dispersion of seismic anisotropy for oceanic lithosphere (σ = 19.2°) differs insignificantly from that for continental lithosphere (σ = 21.6°). The between-plate dispersion, however, is significantly smaller for oceanic lithosphere (σ = 7.4°) than for continental lithosphere (σ = 14.7°). Two of the slowest-moving plates, Antarctica (vRMS = 4 mm a−1, σ = 29°) and Eurasia (vRMS = 3 mm a−1, σ = 33°), have two of the largest within-plate dispersions, which may indicate that a plate must move faster than ≈ 5 mm a−1 to result in seismic anisotropy useful for estimating plate motion. The tendency of observed azimuths on the Arabia plate to be counterclockwise of plate motion may provide information about the direction and amplitude of superposed asthenospheric flow or about anisotropy in the lithospheric mantle.
seismic anisotropy; absolute plate motion; correlated errors; asthenosphere