Upper-mantle seismic anisotropy from SKS splitting in the South American stable platform: A test of asthenospheric flow models beneath the lithosphere
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Upper-mantle seismic anisotropy has been extensively used to infer both present and past deformation processes at lithospheric and asthenospheric depths. Analysis of shear-wave splitting (mainly from core-refracted SKS phases) provides information regarding upper-mantle anisotropy. We present average measurements of fast-polarization directions at 21 new sites in poorly sampled regions of intra-plate South America, such as northern and northeastern Brazil. Despite sparse data coverage for the South American stable platform, consistent orientations are observed over hundreds of kilometers. Over most of the continent, the fast-polarization direction tends to be close to the absolute plate motion direction given by the hotspot reference model HS3-NUVEL-1A. A previous global comparison of the SKS fast-polarization directions with flow models of the upper mantle showed relatively poor correlation on the continents, which was interpreted as evidence for a large contribution of "frozen" anisotropy in the lithosphere. For the South American plate, our data indicate that one of the reasons for the poor correlation may have been the relatively coarse model of lithospheric thicknesses. We suggest that improved models of upper-mantle flow that are based on more detailed lithospheric thicknesses in South America may help to explain most of the observed anisotropy patterns.