Receiver function analysis of the crust and upper mantle in Fennoscandia - isostatic implications

Andrew Frassetto*, Hans Thybo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The mountains across southern Norway and other margins of the North Atlantic Ocean appear conspicuously high in the absence of recent convergent tectonics. We investigate this phenomenon with receiver functions calculated for seismometers deployed across southern Fennoscandia. These are used to constrain the structure and seismic properties of the lithosphere and primarily to measure the thickness and infer the bulk composition of the crust. Such parameters are key to understanding crustal isostasy and assessing its role, or lack thereof, in supporting the observed elevations. Our study focuses on the southern Scandes mountain range that has an average elevation >1.0 km above mean sea level. The crust-mantle boundary (Moho) is ubiquitously imaged, and we occasionally observe structures that may represent the base of the continental lithosphere or other thermal, chemical, or viscous boundaries in the upper mantle. The Moho resides at ~25-30 km depth below mean sea level in southeastern coastal Norway and parts of Denmark, ~35-45 km across the southern Scandes, and ~50-60 km near the Norwegian-Swedish border. That section of thickest crust coincides with much of the Transscandinavian Igneous Belt and often exhibits a diffuse conversion at the Moho, which probably results from the presence of a high wave speed, mafic lower crust across inner Fennoscandia. A zone of thinned crust (<35 km) underlies the Oslo Graben. Crustal Vp/Vs ratio measurements show trends that generally correlate with Moho depth; relatively high Vp/Vs occurs near the coast and areas affected by post-Caledonide rifting and lower Vp/Vs appears in older, unrifted crust across the southern Scandes. Our results indicate that most of the observed surface elevation in the southern Scandes is supported by an Airy-like crustal root and potentially thin mantle lithosphere. To the east, where thicker crust and mantle lithosphere underlie low elevations, the presence of dense mafic lower crust fits a Pratt-like model for isostatic compensation. Because the Scandes mountains occupy the location of the ancient Caledonian orogeny, which created presumably much thicker crust and lithosphere by ca. 400 Ma, much of the dense lower crust or mantle lithosphere that is expected to form beneath large mountain belts must have been removed sometime afterwards to instill the current lithospheric architecture that underlies the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-246
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Continental margins
  • Fennoscandia
  • Isostasy
  • Lithospheric structure
  • Receiver functions
  • Vp/Vs ratio


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