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Moho geometry gravity inversion experiment (MoGGIE): A refined model of the Australian Moho, and its tectonic and isostatic implications

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2010.06.004
  • Gravity Inversion
  • Moho
  • Australia
  • Isostasy
  • Earth Science
  • Geography


Abstract At the continent-scale, models of Moho depth based on seismic estimates alone can be inadequate due to irregular or sparse data. Gravity-based Moho modelling provides better coverage, however, the methods used are typically hampered by an inability to explicitly honour seismic constraints and are also limited by over simplistic model conditions, e.g. laterally-homogenous layering. I present a new method to generate a continent-scale Moho model, based on the constrained inversion of free-air gravity data. This method explicitly honours seismic Moho estimates and accounts for a laterally heterogeneous crust and mantle. Resolution and sensitivity testing shows that, for wavelengths greater than 200 km, crustal density and Moho depth are recovered with reasonable accuracy, ± 30 kg m − 3 and ± 3 km respectively. MoGGIE uses a six layer model incorporating ocean, sedimentary basin, upper crust, lower/oceanic crust, eclogitised crust and mantle. Inversion variables were the density of the crustal layers, constrained by a standard density model, and the depths to intra-crustal boundaries and the Moho, constrained by 230 seismic depth estimates. The results demonstrate that a balanced approach to seismically-constrained gravity inversion has the capability to generate detailed and well-constrained models of the Moho and crustal density at the continent-scale. For Australia, this is a clear improvement on the sparse and irregular resolution of the Moho provided by seismic estimates of crustal thickness, which fail to resolve short-wavelength features. Newly defined tectonic features include extensive magmatic underplates, crustal-scale shear zones, and the boundaries between tectonic blocks. Isostatic analysis reveals that little of the continent is close to isostatic equilibrium, with isostatic disequilibria preserved at multiple scales, from hundreds of kilometres to the entire continent. These disequilibria are interpreted to indicate long-wavelength flexure of highly competent continental lithosphere.

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