Publication 71

Imaging the continental upper mantle using electromagnetic methods

Alan G. Jones


The internal structure of the continental lithosphere holds the key to its creation and development, and this internal structure can be determined using appropriate seismic and electromagnetic methods. These two are complementary in that the seismic parameters represent bulk properties of the rock, whereas electrical conductivity is primarily a function of the connectivity of a minor constituent of the rock matrix, such as the presence of a conducting mineral phase, such as carbon in graphite form, or of a fluid phase, such as partial melt or volatiles. In particular, conductivity is especially sensitive to the top of the asthenosphere, generally considered being a region of an interconnected partial melt. Knowledge of the geometry of the lithosphere/asthenosphere boundary is important as this boundary partially controls the geodynamic processes that create, modify, and destroy the lithosphere. Accordingly, collocated joint seismic and electromagnetic experiments result in superior knowledge than would be obtained from using each on its own.

This paper describes the state of knowledge of the continental upper mantle obtained primarily from the natural­source magnetotelluric technique, and outlines how hypotheses and models regarding the development of cratonic lithosphere can be tested using deep­probing electromagnetic surveying. The resolution properties of the method show the difficulties that can be encountered if there is a lot of conducting material in the crust. Examples of data and interpretations from various regions around the globe are discussed to demonstrate the correlation of electromagnetic and seismic observations of the lithosphere­asthenosphere boundary. Also, the observations from laboratory measurements on candidate mineralogies representative of the mantle, such as olivine, are presented


Lithos, 48, 57-80, 1999.

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Alan G Jones / 10 June 2004 /