Seismicity and Pn Velocity Structure of Central West Antarctica

Erica M. Lucas, Andrew A. Nyblade, Andrew J. Lloyd, Richard C. Aster, Douglas A. Wiens, John Paul O'Donnell, Graham W. Stuart, Terry J. Wilson, Ian W.D. Dalziel, J. Paul Winberry, Audrey D. Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We have located 117 previously undetected seismic events mainly occurring between 2015 and 2017 that originated from glacial, tectonic, and volcanic processes in central West Antarctica using data recorded on Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET/ANET) and UK Antarctic Network (UKANET) seismic stations. The seismic events, with local magnitudes (ML) ranging from 1.1 to 3.5, are predominantly clustered in four geographic regions; the Ellsworth Mountains, Thwaites Glacier, Pine Island Glacier, and Mount Takahe. Eighteen of the events are in the Ellsworth Mountains and can be attributed to a mixture of glacial and tectonic processes. The largest event noted in this study was a mid-crustal (∼19 km focal depth; ML 3.5) normal mechanism earthquake beneath Thwaites Glacier. We also located 91 glacial events near the grounding zones of Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier that are predominantly associated with time periods of significant calving activity. Eight events, likely arising from volcano-tectonic processes, occurred beneath Mount Takahe. Using Pn travel times from the seismic events, we find laterally variable uppermost mantle structure in central West Antarctica. On average, the Ellsworth Mountains are underlain by a faster mantle lid (VPn = ∼8.4 km/s) compared to the Amundsen Sea Embayment region (VPn = ∼8.1 km/s). Within the Amundsen Sea Embayment itself, we find mantle lid velocities ranging from ∼8.05 to 8.18 km/s. Laterally heterogeneous uppermost mantle structure, indicative of variable thermal and rheological structure, likely influences both geothermal heat flux and glacial isostatic adjustment spatial patterns and rates within central West Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GC009471
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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