Magnetotelluric multiscale 3-D inversion reveals crustal and upper mantle structure beneath the Hangai and Gobi-Altai region in Mongolia

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Johannes Sebastian Käufl, Alexander Grayver , Matthew J. Comeau, Alexey V. Kuvshinov, Michael becken, Jochen Kamm, Erdenechimeg Batmagnai, Sodnomsambu Demberel


Central Mongolia is a prominent region of intracontinental surface deformation and intraplate volcanism. To study these processes, which are poorly understood, we collected magnetotelluric data in the Hangai and Gobi-Altai region in central Mongolia and derived the first three-dimensional (3-D) resistivity model of the crustal and upper mantle structure in this region.
The geological and tectonic history of this region is complex, resulting in features over a wide range of spatial scales, which that are coupled through a variety of geodynamic processes. Many Earth properties that are critical for the understanding of these processes, such as temperature as well as fluid and melt properties, affect the electrical conductivity in the subsurface. 3-D imaging using magnetotellurics can resolve the distribution of electrical conductivity within the Earth at scales ranging from tens of metres to hundreds of kilometres, thereby providing constraints on possible geodynamic scenarios. We present an approach to survey design, data acquisition, and inversion that aims to bridge various spatial scales while keeping the required field work and computational cost of the subsequent 3-D inversion feasible.
Magnetotelluric transfer functions were estimated for a 650 x 400 km^2 grid, which included measurements on an array with regular 50 x 50 km^2 spacing and along several profiles with a denser 5-15 km spacing. The use of telluric-only data loggers on these profiles allowed for an efficient data acquisition with a high spatial resolution. A 3-D finite element forward modelling and inversion code was used to obtain the resistivity model. Locally refined unstructured hexahedral meshes allow for a multi-scale model parametrization and accurate topography representation. The inversion process was carried out over four stages, whereby the result from each stage was used as input for the following stage that included a finer model parametrization and/or additional data (i.e. more stations, wider frequency range).
The final model reveals a detailed resistivity structure and fits the observed data well, across all periods and site locations, offering new insights into the subsurface structure of central Mongolia. A prominent feature is a large low-resistivity zone detected in the upper mantle. This feature suggests a non-uniform lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary that contains localized upwellings that shallow to a depth of 70 km, consistent with previous studies. The 3-D model reveals the complex geometry of the feature, which appears rooted below the Eastern Hangai Dome with a second smaller feature slightly south of the Hangai Dome.
Within the highly resistive upper crust, several conductive anomalies are observed. These may be explained by late Cenozoic volcanic zones and modern geothermal areas, which appear linked to mantle structures, as well as by major fault systems, which mark terrane boundaries and mineralized zones. Well resolved, heterogeneous low-resistivity zones that permeate the lower crust may be explained by fluid-rich domains.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


numerical modelling, Structure of the Earth, Inverse theory, Asia, electrical properties, Magnetotellurics


Published: 2019-10-11 11:26

Last Updated: 2020-04-27 18:08

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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