We present a new set of contour maps of the seismic structure of South America and the surrounding ocean basins. These maps include new data, helping to constrain crustal thickness, whole-crustal average P-wave and S-wave velocity, and the seismic velocity of the uppermost mantle (Pn and Sn). We find that: (1) The weighted average thickness of the crust under South America is 38.17 km (standard deviation, s.d. ±8.7 km), which is ∼1 km thinner than the global average of 39.2 km (s.d. ±8.5 km) for continental crust. (2) Histograms of whole-crustal P-wave velocities for the South American crust are bi-modal, with the lower peak occurring for crust that appears to be missing a high-velocity (6.9–7.3 km/s) lower crustal layer. (3) The average P-wave velocity of the crystalline crust (Pcc) is 6.47 km/s (s.d. ±0.25 km/s). This is essentially identical to the global average of 6.45 km/s. (4) The average Pn velocity beneath South America is 8.00 km/s (s.d. ±0.23 km/s), slightly lower than the global average of 8.07 km/s. (5) A region across northern Chile and northeast Argentina has anomalously low P- and S-wave velocities in the crust. Geographically, this corresponds to the shallowly-subducted portion of the Nazca plate (the Pampean flat slab first described by Isacks et al., 1968), which is also a region of crustal extension. (6) The thick crust of the Brazilian craton appears to extend into Venezuela and Colombia. (7) The crust in the Amazon basin and along the western edge of the Brazilian craton may be thinned by extension. (8) The average crustal P-wave velocity under the eastern Pacific seafloor is higher than under the western Atlantic seafloor, most likely due to the thicker sediment layer on the older Atlantic seafloor.
Additional publication details
Seismic structure of the crust and uppermost mantle of South America and surrounding oceanic basins