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From crystals to crustal-scale seismic anisotropy: Bridging the gap between rocks and seismic studies with digital geologic map data in Colorado

January 10, 2022

Deep continental crustal structures are enigmatic due to lack of direct exposures and limited tools to investigate them remotely. Seismic waves can sample these rocks, but most seismic methods focus on coarse crustal structures while laboratory measurements concentrate on crystal-scale rock properties, and little work has been conducted to bridge this interpretation gap. In some places, geologic maps of crystalline basement provide samples of the intermediate-scale fabrics and structures that may represent in situ deep crust. However, previous research has not considered natural geometric variations from map data, nor is this heterogeneity typically included in map-scale seismic property calculations. Here, we test how map-scale fabrics influence crustal seismic anisotropy in Colorado by analyzing structural data from geologic maps, combining those data with bulk rock elastic tensors to calculate map-scale seismic properties, and evaluating the resulting comparisons with observed receiver function A1 (360° periodic) arrivals. Crystalline fabrics, predicted seismic properties, and tectonic structures positively correlate with shallow and deep crustal A1 arrivals. Additionally, widespread correlations occur between mapped fault traces and regional foliations, implying that preexisting mechanical heterogeneity may have strongly influenced subsequent reactivation. We interpret that various mapped geologic contact types (e.g., lithologic and structural) generate A1 arrivals and that multiple parallel features (e.g., faults, foliations, and intrusions) contribute to a seismically visible tectonic grain. Therefore, Colorado's exhumed basement, as expressed in outcrops and maps, offers insight into modern deep crustal geological and geophysical structure.