In this paper we describe a technique for mapping the lateral variation of Lg characteristics such as Lg blockage, efficient Lg propagation, and regions of very high attenuation in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean regions. Lg is used in a variety of seismological applications from magnitude estimation to identification of nuclear explosions for monitoring compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). These applications can give significantly biased results if the Lg phase is reduced or blocked by discontinuous structure or thin crust. Mapping these structures using quantitative techniques for determining Lg amplitude attenuation can break down when the phase is below background noise. In such cases Lg blockage and inefficient propagation zones are often mapped out by hand. With our approach, we attempt to visually simplify this information by imaging crustal structure anomalies that significantly diminish the amplitude of Lg. The visualization of such anomalies is achieved by defining a grid of cells that covers the entire region of interest. We trace Lg rays for each event/ station pair, which is simply the great circle path, and attribute to each cell a value equal to the maximum value of the Lg/P-coda amplitude ratio for all paths traversing that particular cell. The resulting map, from this empirical approach, is easily interpreted in terms of crustal structure and can successfully image small blockage features often missed by analysis of raypaths alone. This map can then be used to screen out events with blocked Lg prior to performing Q tomography, and to avoid using Lg-based methods of event identification for the CTBT in regions where they cannot work. For this study we applied our technique to one of the most tectonically complex regions on the earth. Nearly 9000 earthquake/station raypaths, traversing the vast region comprised of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Southern Europe and Northern Africa, have been analyzed. We measured the amplitude of Lg relative to the P-coda and mapped the lateral variation of Lg propagation efficiency. With the relatively dense coverage provided by the numerous crossing paths we are able to map out the pattern of crustal heterogeneity that gives rise to the observed character of Lg propagation. We observe that the propagation characteristics of Lg within the region of interest are very complicated but are readily correlated with the different tectonic environments within the region. For example, clear strong Lg arrivals are observed for paths crossing the stable continental interiors of Northern Africa and the Arabian Shield. In contrast, weakened to absent Lg is observed for paths crossing much of the Middle East, and Lg is absent for paths traversing the Mediterranean. Regions that block Lg transmission within the Middle East are very localized and include the Caspian Sea, the Iranian Plateau and the Red Sea. Resolution is variable throughout the region and strongly depends on the distribution of seismicity and recording stations. Lg propagation is best resolved within the Middle East where regions of crustal heterogeneity on the order of 100 km are imaged (e.g., South Caspian Sea and Red Sea). Crustal heterogeneity is resolvable but is poorest in seismically quiescent Northern Africa.
Additional publication details
Mapping crustal heterogeneity using Lg propagation efficiency throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean, Southern Europe and Northern Africa