Gravity effect of Alpine slab segments based on geophysical and petrological modelling

In this study, we present an estimate of the gravity signal of the slabs beneath the Alpine mountain belt. Estimates of the gravity effect of the subducting slabs are often omitted or simplified in crustal-scale models. The related signal is calculated here for alternative slab configurations at near-surface height and at a satellite altitude of 225 km. We apply three different modelling approaches in order to estimate the gravity signal from the subducting slab segments: (i) direct conversion of upper mantle seismic velocities to density distribution, which are then forward calculated to obtain the gravity signal; (ii) definition of slab geometries based on seismic crustal thickness and high-resolution upper mantle tomography for two competing slab configurations – the geometries are then forward calculated by assigning a constant density contrast and slab thickness; (iii) accounting for compositional and thermal variations with depth within the predefined slab geometry. Forward calculations predict a gravity signal of up to 40 mGal for the Alpine slab configuration. Significant differences in the gravity anomaly patterns are visible for different slab geometries in the near-surface gravity field. However, different contributing slab segments are not easily separated, especially at satellite altitude. Our results demonstrate that future studies addressing the lithospheric structure of the Alps should have to account for the subducting slabs in order to provide a meaningful representation of the geodynamic complex Alpine area.


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Authors: Lowe, Maximilian ORCIDORCID record for Maximilian Lowe, Ebbing, Jörg, El-Sharkawy, Amr, Meier, Thomas

On this site: Maximilian Lowe
19 March, 2021
Solid Earth / 12
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