Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Research: Deep Structure of Three Continental Sutures in Eastern North America

Lead PI: Dr. William Menke

Unit Affiliation: Seismology, Geology & Tectonophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

May 2012 - October 2018
North America ; Quebec ; Maine ; New England
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The project uses data gathered from seismic stations in Quebec and New England (including EarthScope and project-specific deplayments) to determine if the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary is a distinct interface that deepens towards the craton, if the seismic properties of the continental lithosphere are regionalized, and if the broad scale flow of the asthenosphere is the major source of seismic anisotropy.

OUTCOMES: We have discovered that southern New England is underlain by a very strong zone of mante upwelling. Heat being brought up from the deep earth is detectable through the very low seismic velocities in the region and by a reduction in mantle anisotropy. The heat has led to a thinning of the lithosphere, especially below southern Vermont. This feature may have existed for millions of years and may explain some of New England's enigmatic properties, including its high heat flow and its intense micro-seismicity.

In addition, see the "QMIII Quebec-Maine Three Suture Fieldtrips" and "Springwater Fieldtrips" sections of for fieldtrip photos and journals.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Dallas Abbott, Ted Dong, Juliette Lamoureaux, Fiona Darbyshire, Vadim Levin


Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES)


University of Quebec at Montreal, Rutgers University



William Menke, Juliette Lamoureux, Dallas Abbott, Emily Hopper, Dionne Hutson and Alyssa Marrero, Crustal heating and lithospheric alteration and erosion associated with asthenospheric upwelling beneath southern New England (USA), J. Geophys. Res. doi: 10.1029/2018JB015921, 2018.

Dong, M.T. and W.H. Menke, Seismic high attenuation region observed beneath southern New England from teleseismic body wave spectra: evidence for high asthenospheric temperature without melt, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI:10.1002/2017GL074953, 2017.

Levin, V., A. Servali, J. VanTongeren, W. Menke and F. Darbyshire, Crust-mantle boundary in eastern North America, from the (oldest) craton to the (youngest) rift, in The crust-mantle and lithosphere-asthenosphere boundaries: insights from xenoliths, orogenic deep sections and geophysical studies, Geological Society of America Special Paper 526 (eds. Bianchini Gianluca, Bodinier Jean-Louis, Braga Roberto, Wilson Marjorie), 107-131, 2017.

Menke, W., P. Skryzalin, V. Levin, T. Harper, F. Darbyshire and Ted Dong, The Northern Appalachian Anomaly is a Modern Asthenospheric Upwelling, Geophys. Res. Lett., 2016.

Gilligan, A, ID Bastow, E Watson, F Darbyshire, V Levin, W Menke, V Lane, D Hawthorn, A Boyce, MV Liddell and L Petrescu, Lithospheric deformation in the Canadian Appalachians: evidence from shear wave splitting, Geophys. J. Int. 206, 1273-1280, 2016.

Boyce, A, ID Bastow, FA Darbyshire, AG Ellwood, A Gilligan, V Levin and W Menke, Subduction beneath Laurentia modified the eastern North American cratonic edge: Evidence from P wave and S wave tomography, J. Geophys. Res. 121, 5013-5030, 2016.

Petrescu, L., I.D. Bastow, FA Darbyshire, A. Gilligan, T. Bodin, W, Menke and V. Levin, Three billion years of crustal evolution in eastern Canada: Constraints from receiver functions, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2016, DOI 10.1002/2015JB012348.

DATASETS: (1) Seismic data from the QM-III array are available through IRIS. (2) Spring temperature data are available through the HydroShare database under author "Abbott".


earthscope geodynamics transportable array geotomography seismic data acquisition


Earth fundamentals