Spatiospectral localization of isostatic coherence anisotropy in Australia and its relation to seismic anisotropy: Implications for lithospheric deformation

Frederik J. Simons, Rob D. van der Hilst, Maria T. Zuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


We investigate the two-dimensional (2-D) nature of the coherence between Bouguer gravity anomalies and topography on the Australian continent. The coherence function or isostatic response is commonly assumed to be isotropic. However, the fossilized strain field recorded by gravity anomalies and their relation to topography is manifest in a degree of isostatic compensation or coherence which does depend on direction. We have developed a method that enables a robust and unbiased estimation of spatially, directionally, and wavelength-dependent coherence functions between two 2-D fields in a computationally efficient way. Our new multispectrogram method uses orthonormalized Hermite functions as data tapers, which are optimal for spectral localization of nonstationary, spatially dependent processes, and do not require solving an eigenvalue problem. We discuss the properties and advantages of this method with respect to other techniques. We identify regions on the continent marked by preferential directions of isostatic compensation in two wavelength regimes. With few exceptions, the short-wavelength coherence anisotropy is nearly perpendicular to the major trends of the suture zones between stable continental domains, supporting the geological observation that such zones are mechanically weak. Mechanical anisotropy reflects lithospheric strain accumulation, and its presence must be related to the deformational processes affecting the lithosphere integrated over time. Three-dimensional models of seismic anisotropy obtained from surface wave inversions provide an independent estimate of the lithospheric fossil strain field, and simple models have been proposed to relate seismic anisotropy to continental deformation. We compare our measurements of mechanical anisotropy with our own model of the azimuthally anisotropic seismic wave speed structure of the Australian lithosphere. The correlation of isostatic anisotropy with directions of fast wave propagation gleaned from the azimuthal anisotropy of surface waves decays with depth. This may support claims that above ∼200 km, internally coherent deformation of the entire lithosphere is responsible for the anisotropy present in surface wave speeds or split shear waves.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)ETG 8-1 - 8-21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 10 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


  • Anisotropy
  • Coherence
  • Isostasy
  • Lithosphere
  • Shear wave speed
  • Wavelets

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