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Estimating a combined Moho model for marine areas via satellite altimetric - gravity and seismic crustal models

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Isostasy is a key concept in geoscience in interpreting the state of mass balance between the Earth’s lithosphere and viscous asthenosphere. A more satisfactory test of isostasy is to determine the depth to and density contrast between crust and mantle at the Moho discontinuity (Moho). Generally, the Moho can be mapped by seismic information, but the limited coverage of such data over large portions of the world (in particular at seas) and economic considerations make a combined gravimetric-seismic method a more realistic approach. The determination of a high-resolution of the Moho constituents for marine areas requires the combination of gravimetric and seismic data to diminish substantially the seismic data gaps. In this study, we estimate the Moho constituents globally for ocean regions to a resolution of 1° × 1° by applying the Vening Meinesz-Moritz method from gravimetric data and combine it with estimates derived from seismic data in a new model named COMHV19. The data files of GMG14 satellite altimetry-derived marine gravity field, the Earth2014 Earth topographic/bathymetric model, CRUST1.0 and CRUST19 crustal seismic models are used in a least-squares procedure. The numerical computations show that the Moho depths range from 7.3 km (in Kolbeinsey Ridge) to 52.6 km (in the Gulf of Bothnia) with a global average of 16.4 km and standard deviation of the order of 7.5 km. Estimated Moho density contrasts vary between 20 kg m-3 (north of Iceland) to 570 kg m-3 (in Baltic Sea), with a global average of 313.7 kg m-3 and standard deviation of the order of 77.4 kg m-3. When comparing the computed Moho depths with current knowledge of crustal structure, they are generally found to be in good agreement with other crustal models. However, in certain regions, such as oceanic spreading ridges and hot spots, we generally obtain thinner crust than proposed by other models, which is likely the result of improvements in the new model. We also see evidence for thickening of oceanic crust with increasing age. Hence, the new combined Moho model is able to image rather reliable information in most of the oceanic areas, in particular in ocean ridges, which are important features in ocean basins.


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This study was supported by project no. 187/18 of the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA).

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Correspondence to Majid Abrehdary.

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Abrehdary, M., Sjöberg, L.E. Estimating a combined Moho model for marine areas via satellite altimetric - gravity and seismic crustal models. Stud Geophys Geod 64, 1–25 (2020).

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  • Vening Meinesz-Moritz
  • satellite altimetry
  • Moho depth
  • Moho density contrast
  • uncertainty