The effective elastic thickness of the continental lithosphere: Comparison between rheological and inverse approaches


Following the release of global continental effective elastic thickness (Te) maps obtained using different approaches, we now have the opportunity to provide better constraints on Te. We improve previous estimates of Te derived from thermo‐rheological models of lithospheric strength (or Ter) using new equations that consider variations of the Young’s Modulus in the lithosphere. These new values are quantitatively compared with those obtained from an inverse approach (or Tei) based on a comparison of the spectral coherence between topography and gravity anomalies with the flexural response of an equivalent elastic plate to loading. The two models show in general a good agreement, having equal means (at the 95% significance level) in about half of the continental areas. In other regions Tei exceeds Ter in about 65% of the data points, showing that Tei provides an upper bound on Te. The two data sets have a similar range, but demonstrate different distributions. Ter has a bimodal distribution, with the two peaks representative of the cratons and of the areas outside of them. In contrast, Tei has more uniform distribution without predominant peaks. Our models show higher similarities in the Meso‐Cenozoic orogens than in the Archaean and Proterozoic shields and platforms, due to the methods employed. For the regions with the most robust determinations of Ter and Tei, the relationship between them is close to linear. The results of this work can be used for further studies on the mechanical properties of the lithosphere.

Geochemistryl, Geophysics, Geosystems