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    The Earth's mantle transition zone (MTZ) plays a key role in the thermal and compositional interactions between the upper and lower mantle. Seismic anisotropy provides useful information about mantle deformation and dynamics across the MTZ. However, seismic anisotropy in the MTZ is difficult to constrain from surface wave or shear wave splitting measurements. Here, we investigate the sensitivity to anisotropy of a body wave method, SS precursors, through 3-D synthetic modelling and apply it to real data. Our study shows that the SS precursors can distinguish the anisotropy originating from three depths: shallow upper mantle (80–220 km), deep upper mantle above 410 km, and MTZ (410–660 km). Synthetic resolution tests indicate that SS precursors can resolve $\ge $3 per cent azimuthal anisotropy where data have an average signal-to-noise ratio (SNR = 7) and sufficient azimuthal coverage. To investigate regional sensitivity, we apply the stacking and inversion methods to two densely sampled areas: the Japan subduction zone and a central Pacific region around the Hawaiian hotspot. We find evidence for significant VS anisotropy (15.3 ± 9.2 per cent) with a trench-perpendicular fast direction (93° ± 5°) in the MTZ near the Japan subduction zone. We attribute the azimuthal anisotropy to the grain-scale shape-preferred orientation of basaltic materials induced by the shear deformation within the subducting slab beneath NE China. In the central Pacific study region, there is a non-detection of MTZ anisotropy, although modelling suggests the data coverage should allow us to resolve at least 3 per cent anisotropy. Therefore, the Hawaiian mantle plume has not produced detectable azimuthal anisotropy in the MTZ.

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  2. Constraining the thermal and compositional state of the mantle is crucial for deciphering the formation and evolution of Mars. Mineral physics predicts that Mars’ deep mantle is demarcated by a seismic discontinuity arising from the pressure-induced phase transformation of the mineral olivine to its higher-pressure polymorphs, making the depth of this boundary sensitive to both mantle temperature and composition. Here, we report on the seismic detection of a midmantle discontinuity using the data collected by NASA’s InSight Mission to Mars that matches the expected depth and sharpness of the postolivine transition. In five teleseismic events, we observed triplicated P and S waves and constrained the depth of this discontinuity to be 1,006 ± 40 km by modeling the triplicated waveforms. From this depth range, we infer a mantle potential temperature of 1,605 ± 100 K, a result consistent with a crust that is 10 to 15 times more enriched in heat-producing elements than the underlying mantle. Our waveform fits to the data indicate a broad gradient across the boundary, implying that the Martian mantle is more enriched in iron compared to Earth. Through modeling of thermochemical evolution of Mars, we observe that only two out of the five proposed composition models are compatible with the observed boundary depth. Our geodynamic simulations suggest that the Martian mantle was relatively cold 4.5 Gyr ago (1,720 to 1,860 K) and are consistent with a present-day surface heat flow of 21 to 24 mW/m 2 . 
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  3. Abstract

    The critical zone (CZ) is the region of the Earth’s surface that extends from the bottom of the weathered bedrock to the tree canopy and is important because of its ability to store water and support ecosystems. A growing number of studies use active source shallow seismic refraction to explore and define the size and structure of the CZ across landscapes. However, measurement uncertainty and model resolution at depth are generally not evaluated, which makes the identification and interpretation of CZ features inconclusive. To reliably resolve seismic velocity with depth, we implement a Transdimensional Hierarchical Bayesian (THB) framework with reversible‐jump Markov Chain Monte Carlo to generate samples from the posterior distribution of velocity structures. We also perform 2D synthetic tests to explore how well THB traveltime inversion can resolve different subsurface velocity structures. We find that THB recovers both sharp changes in velocity as well as gradual velocity increases with depth. Furthermore, we explore the velocity structure in a series of ridge‐valley systems in northern California. The posterior velocity model shows an increasing thickness of low velocity material from channels to ridgetops along a transect parallel to bedding strike, implying a deeper weathering zone below ridgetops and hillslopes than below channels. The THB method enhances the ability to reliably image CZ structure, and the model uncertainty estimates it yields provides an objective way to interpret deep CZ structure. The method can be applied across other near‐surface studies, especially in the presence of significant surface topography.

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  4. Abstract

    Dissipation of tidal energy is expected to generate seismicity on icy‐ocean worlds; however, the distribution and timing of this seismic activity throughout an orbital cycle is not known. We used new observations from an icy‐ocean‐world analog environment on Earth to examine the relationship between tidally driven tensile stress and seismic activity within an ice shell. We investigated a pair of rifts within Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf which are tidally stressed in a manner analogous to the orbital cycle of tidal stress experienced by Enceladus' Tiger Stripe Fractures. We found that seismic activity at the Antarctic rifts is sensitive to both the amplitude and the rate of tensile stress across the rifts. We combined these findings with calculated stress values along Enceladus' Tiger Stripe Fractures to predict seismic‐activity levels expected along the ice‐shell fractures. We predict a peak in seismicity along the four Tiger Stripe Fractures when Enceladus is 90°–120° past pericenter in its orbit around Saturn, at which point tensile stresses would reach ∼2/3 of their maximum value. We also used the magnitude distribution of icequakes along Antarctic rifts to investigate implications for the likely size of stick‐slip rupture patches along icy faults on Enceladus. Our findings predict that the Tiger Stripe Fractures should produce sustained, low‐magnitude seismic events that involve rupture along discrete portions of each fracture's total length. We predict that seismicity would fall to 50% of peak levels when stresses across the Tiger Stripe Fractures are dominantly compressional.

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  5. Abstract

    The mantle transition zone (MTZ) of Earth is demarcated by solid‐to‐solid phase changes of the mineral olivine that produce seismic discontinuities at 410 and 660‐km depths. Mineral physics experiments predict that wadsleyite can have strong single‐crystal anisotropy at the pressure and temperature conditions of the MTZ. Thus, significant seismic anisotropy is possible in the upper MTZ where lattice‐preferred orientation of wadsleyite is produced by mantle flow. Here, we use a body wave method, SS precursors, to study the topography change and seismic anisotropy near the MTZ discontinuities. We stack the data to explore the azimuthal dependence of travel‐times and amplitudes of SS precursors and constrain the azimuthal anisotropy in the MTZ. Beneath the central Pacific, we find evidence for ~4% anisotropy with a SE fast direction in the upper mantle and no significant anisotropy in the MTZ. In subduction zones, we observe ~4% anisotropy with a trench‐parallel fast direction in the upper mantle and ~3% anisotropy with a trench‐perpendicular fast direction in the MTZ. The transition of fast directions indicates that the lattice‐preferred orientation of wadsleyite induced by MTZ flow is organized separately from the flow in the upper mantle. Global azimuthal stacking reveals ~1% azimuthal anisotropy in the upper mantle but negligible anisotropy (<1%) in the MTZ. Finally, we correct for the upper mantle and MTZ anisotropy structures to obtain a new MTZ topography model. The anisotropy correction produces±3 km difference and therefore has minor overall effects on global MTZ topography.

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  6. Abstract

    Firn aquifers have been discovered across regions of the Greenland ice sheet with high snow accumulation and melt rates, but the processes and rates that sustain these aquifers have not been fully quantified or supported by field data. A quantitative description of the hydrology of a firn aquifer upslope from Helheim Glacier that integrates field measurements is presented to constrain melt and recharge rates and timing, temporal variations in temperature and water levels, and liquid‐water residence time. Field measurements include weather data, firn temperatures, water levels, geochemical tracers, and airborne radar data. Field measurements show that once the firn column is temperate (0°C), meltwater from the surface infiltrates to the water table in less than 2 days and raises the water table. Average recharge is 22 cm/year (lower 95% confidence interval is 13 cm/year and upper 95% confidence interval is 33 cm/year). Meltwater within the recently formed aquifer, which flows laterally downslope and likely discharges into crevasses, has a mean residence time of ~6.5 years. Airborne radar data suggest that the aquifer in the study area continues to expand inland, presumably from Arctic warming. These comprehensive field measurements and integrated description of aquifer hydrology provide a comprehensive, quantitative framework for modeling fluid flow through firn, and understanding existing and yet undiscovered firn aquifers, and may help researchers evaluate the role of firn aquifers in climate change impacts.

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