We present phase velocity maps of fundamental mode Rayleigh waves across the North American and Caribbean plates. Our data set consists of 1846 waveforms from 172 events recorded at 91 broad-band stations operating in North America. We compute phase velocity maps in four narrow period bands between 50 and 150 s using a non-linear waveform inversion method that solves for phase velocity perturbations relative to a reference Earth model (PREM). Our results show a strong velocity contrast between high velocities beneath the stable North American craton, and lower velocities in the tectonically active western margin, in agreement with other regional and global surface wave tomography studies. We perform detailed comparisons with global model results, which display good agreement between phase velocity maps in the location and amplitude of the anomalies. However, forward modelling shows that regional maps are more accurate for predicting waveforms. In addition, at long periods, the amplitude of the velocity anomalies imaged in our regional phase velocity maps is three time larger than in global phase velocity models. This amplitude factor is necessary to explain the data accurately, showing that regional models provide a better image of velocity structures. Synthetic tests show that the raypath coverage used in this study enables one to resolve velocity features of the order of 800-1000 km. However, only larger length-scale features are observed in the phase velocity maps. The limitation in resolution of our maps can be attributed to the wave propagation theory used in the inversion. Ray theory does not account for off-great-circle ray propagation effects, such as ray bending or scattering. For wavelengths less than 1000 km, scattering effects are significant and may need to be considered.
Additional publication details
Surface wave tomography of North America and the Caribbean using global and regional broad-band networks: Phase velocity maps and limitations of ray theory