Mantle structure and tectonic history of SE Asia

Robert Hall, Wim Spakman

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Seismic travel-time tomography of the mantle under SE Asia reveals patterns of subduction-related seismic P-wave velocity anomalies that are of great value in helping to understand the region's tectonic development. We discuss tomography and tectonic interpretations of an area centred on Indonesia and including Malaysia, parts of the Philippines, New Guinea and northern Australia. We begin with an explanation of seismic tomography and causes of velocity anomalies in the mantle, and discuss assessment of model quality for tomographic models created from P-wave travel times. We then introduce the global P-wave velocity anomaly model UU-P07 and the tectonic model used in this paper and give an overview of previous interpretations of mantle structure. The slab-related velocity anomalies we identify in the upper and lower mantle based on the UU-P07 model are interpreted in terms of the tectonic model and illustrated with figures and movies. Finally, we discuss where tomographic and tectonic models for SE Asia converge or diverge, and identify the most important conclusions concerning the history of the region. The tomographic images of the mantle record subduction beneath the SE Asian region to depths of approximately 1600 km. In the upper mantle anomalies mainly record subduction during the last 10 to 25 Ma, depending on the region considered. We interpret a vertical slab tear crossing the entire upper mantle north of west Sumatra where there is a strong lateral kink in slab morphology, slab holes between c.200–400 km below East Java and Sumbawa, and offer a new three-slab explanation for subduction in the North Sulawesi region. There is a different structure in the lower mantle compared to the upper mantle and the deep structure changes from west to east. What was imaged in earlier models as a broad and deep anomaly below SE Asia has a clear internal structure and we argue that many features can be identified as older subduction zones. We identify remnants of slabs that detached in the Early Miocene such as the Sula slab, now found in the lower mantle north of Lombok, and the Proto-South China Sea slab now at depths below 700 km curving from northern Borneo to the Philippines. Based on our tectonic model we interpret virtually all features seen in upper mantle and lower mantle to depths of at least 1200 km to be the result of Cenozoic subduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14–45
Number of pages32
Early online date26 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2015

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