Dynamic Upwelling Beneath the Salton Trough Imaged With Teleseismic Attenuation Tomography

Joseph S. Byrnes, Maximiliano Bezada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The Salton Trough is one of the few regions on Earth where rifting is subaerial instead of submarine. We use the relative attenuation of teleseismic P phases recorded by the Salton Trough Seismic Imaging Project to investigate lithospheric and asthenospheric structures that form during extension. Map-view analysis reveals stronger attenuation within the Salton Trough than in the adjacent provinces. We then construct tomographic models for variations in seismic attenuation with depth to discriminate between crustal and mantle signals with a damped least squares approach and a Bayesian approach. Synthetic tests show that models from damped least squares significantly underestimate the strength of attenuation and cannot separate crustal and mantle signals even if the tomographic models are allowed to be discontinuous at the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB). We show that a Bayesian approach overcomes these problems when inverting the same synthetic data sets and that shallow and deep signals are more clearly separated when imposing a discontinuity. With greater than 95% confidence, the results reveal first, that attenuation occurs primarily beneath the LAB; second, that the width of the attenuative region is narrower than the rift at 120 km depth; and third, that the strength of attenuation requires that the attenuative feature represents a melting-column similar to those beneath mid-ocean ridges. The narrow width of the melting column below the volatile-free solidus is inconsistent with models for passive upwelling, where flow is driven only by rifting. Instead, we attribute the generation of incipient oceanic crust to mantle upwelling focused by buoyancy into a narrow diapir.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JB020347
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this project was provided by the University of Minnesota and the NSF Earthscope program under grant EAR‐1827277. We thank two anonymous reviewers who constructively reviewed the manuscript and two anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
©2020. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • Bayesian
  • P waves
  • Salton Trough
  • attenuation
  • mantle flow
  • tomography


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