Wave speed structure of the eastern North American margin

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The eastern North American margin (ENAM) is the result of nearly a billion years of continental collision and rifting. To the west of this margin lies thick continental lithosphere of the North American craton, and to the east is oceanic lithosphere in the Atlantic. The substantial changes in lithosphere thickness at this boundary are thought to drive asthenosphere upwelling along the edge of the continent. Through iterative, full-waveform, ambient noise tomography, we observe a heterogeneous low wave speed margin along the continent in the upper mantle. Multiple low wave speed features imaged within the margin are consistent with asthenospeheric upwelling due to edge-driven convection. Also within the margin are high wave speed anomalies that maybe the remnants of eclogitic delamination of the Appalachian crustal root, which contribute to convection at the margin. Edge driven, small-scale convection keeps the margin weak and thus controls the large scale plate tectonic patterns and the crustal deformation. The imaged mantle wave speed anomalies, interpreted as edge-driven convection, correlate with and may increase the likelihood of damaging earthquakes in the eastern portion of North America.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters