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Structure and anisotropy of the Mexico subduction zone based on Rayleigh‐wave analysis and implications for the geometry of the Trans‐Mexican Volcanic Belt


We develop a three-dimensional model of shear wave velocity and anisotropy for the Mexico subduction zone using Rayleigh wave phase velocity dispersion measurements. This region is characterized by both steep and flat subduction and a volcanic arc that appears to be oblique to the trench. We give a new interpretation of the volcanic arc obliqueness and the location of the Tzitzio gap in volcanism based on the subduction morphology. We employ the two-station method to measure Rayleigh phase velocity dispersion curves between periods of 16 s to 171 s. The results are then inverted to obtain azimuthally anisotropic phase velocity maps and to model 3-D variations in upper mantle velocity and anisotropy. Our maps reveal lateral variations in phase velocity at all periods, consistent with the presence of flat and steep subduction. We also find that the data are consistent with two layers of anisotropy beneath Mexico: a crustal layer, with the fast directions parallel to the North American absolute plate motion, and a deeper layer that includes the mantle lithosphere and the asthenosphere, with the fast direction interpreted in terms of toroidal mantle flow around the slab edges. Our combined azimuthal anisotropy and velocity model enables us to analyze the transition from flat to steep subduction and to determine whether the transition involves a tear resulting in a gap between segments or is a continuous deformation caused by a lithospheric flexure. Our anisotropy results favor a tear, which is also consistent with the geometry of the volcanic belt. Copyright 2012 by the American Geophysical Union.

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