Seismic reflection profiles from three different surveys of the Cascadia forearc are interpreted using P wave velocities and relocated hypocentres, which were both derived from the first arrival travel time inversion of wide-angle seismic data and local earthquakes. The subduction decollement, which is characterized beneath the continental shelf by a reflection of 0.5 s duration, can be traced landward into a large duplex structure in the lower forearc crust near southern Vancouver Island. Beneath Vancouver Island, the roof thrust of the duplex is revealed by a 5–12 km thick zone, identified previously as the E reflectors, and the floor thrust is defined by a short duration reflection from a < 2-km-thick interface at the top of the subducting plate. We show that another zone of reflectors exists east of Vancouver Island that is approximately 8 km thick, and identified as the D reflectors. These overlie the E reflectors; together the two zones define the landward part of the duplex. The combined zones reach depths as great as 50 km. The duplex structure extends for more than 120 km perpendicular to the margin, has an along-strike extent of 80 km, and at depths between 30 km and 50 km the duplex structure correlates with a region of anomalously deep seismicity, where velocities are less than 7000 m s− 1. We suggest that these relatively low velocities indicate the presence of either crustal rocks from the oceanic plate that have been underplated to the continent or crustal rocks from the forearc that have been transported downward by subduction erosion. The absence of seismicity from within the E reflectors implies that they are significantly weaker than the overlying crust, and the reflectors may be a zone of active ductile shear. In contrast, seismicity in parts of the D reflectors can be interpreted to mean that ductile shearing no longer occurs in the landward part of the duplex. Merging of the D and E reflectors at 42–46 km depth creates reflectivity in the uppermost mantle with a vertical thickness of at least 15 km. We suggest that pervasive reflectivity in the upper mantle elsewhere beneath Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia arises from similar shear zones.
Additional publication details
Local thickening of the Cascadia forearc crust and the origin of seismic reflectors in the uppermost mantle