Characterization of the crust of the Coast Mountains Batholith, British Columbia, from P to S converted seismic waves and petrologic modeling

Josh A. Calkins, George Zandt, James Girardi, Ken Dueker, George E. Gehrels, Mihai N. Ducea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The late Triassic to early Tertiary Coast Mountains Batholith (CMB) of British Columbia provides an ideal locale to study the processes whereby accreted terranes and subduction-related melts interact to form stable continental crust of intermediate to felsic composition and complementary ultramafic residuals. Seismic measurements, combined with calculated elastic properties of various CMB rock compositions, provide a window into the deep-crustal lithologies that are key to understanding the processes of continental growth and evolution. We use a combination of seismic observations and petrologic modeling to construct hypothetical crustal sections at representative locations across the CMB, then test the viability of these sections via forward modeling with synthetic seismic data. The compositions that make up our petrologic forward models are based on calculations using the free energy minimization program Perple_X to predict mineral assemblages at depth for the bulk compositions of exposed plutonic rocks collected in the study area. Seismic data were collected along two transects in west-central British Columbia: a southern line that crossed the CMB near the town of Bella Coola (near 52° N), and a northern line centered on the towns of Terrace and Kitimat (near 54° N). Along both transects, seismic receiver functions reveal high Vp/Vs ratios near the Insular/Intermontane terrane boundary and crustal thickness increasing from 26 ± 3 km to 34 ± 3 km (at the 1 sigma certainty level) from west to east across the Coast Shear Zone (CSZ). On the southern line, we observe an anomalous region of complex receiver functions and diminished Moho signals beneath the central portion of the CMB. Our petrologic and seismic profiles show that observed seismic data from much of the CMB can be well-matched in terms of crustal thickness and structure, average Vp/Vs, and amplitude of the Moho converted phase, without including ultramafic residual material in the lower crust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2010


  • Coast Mountains Batholith
  • forward modeling
  • receiver function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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