Shear Wave Splitting Across Antarctica: Implications for Upper Mantle Seismic Anisotropy

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We examine upper mantle anisotropy across the Antarctic continent using 102 new shear wave splitting measurements obtained from teleseismic SKS, SKKS, and PKS phases combined with 107 previously published results. For the new measurements, an eigenvalue technique is used to estimate the fast polarization direction and delay time for each phase arrival, and high-quality measurements are stacked to determine the best-fit splitting parameters at each seismic station. The ensemble of splitting measurements shows largely NE-SW-oriented fast polarization directions across Antarctica, with a broadly clockwise rotation in polarization directions evident moving from west to east across the continent. Although the first-order pattern of NE-SW-oriented polarization directions is suggestive of a single plate-wide source of anisotropy, we argue the observed pattern of anisotropy more likely arises from regionally variable contributions of both lithospheric and sub-lithospheric mantle sources. Anisotropy observed in the interior of East Antarctica, a region underlain by thick lithosphere, can be attributed to relict fabrics associated with Precambrian tectonism. In contrast, anisotropy observed in coastal East Antarctica, the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM), and across much of West Antarctica likely reflects both lithospheric and sub-lithospheric mantle fabrics. While sub-lithospheric mantle fabrics are best associated with either plate motion-induced asthenospheric flow or small-scale convection, lithospheric mantle fabrics in coastal East Antarctica, the TAM, and West Antarctica generally reflect Jurassic—Cenozoic tectonic activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JB023325
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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