Resolving Continental Magma Reservoirs With 3D Surface Wave Tomography

Ross Maguire, Brandon Schmandt, Min Chen, Chengxin Jiang, Jiaqi Li, Justin Wilgus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surface wave tomography is widely used to improve our understanding of continental magma reservoirs that may be capable of fueling explosive volcanic eruptions. However, traditional surface wave tomography based on inversions for phase velocity maps and locally 1D shear velocity may have difficulty resolving strong 3D low-velocity anomalies associated with crustal magma reservoirs. Here, we perform synthetic tomography experiments based on 3D seismic waveform simulations to understand how the limitations of surface wave tomography could affect interpretations of tomography in volcanic settings. We focus our modeling on the Yellowstone volcanic system, one of the largest and most thoroughly studied continental magmatic systems, and explore scenarios in which the maximum shear velocity anomaly associated with the crustal magma reservoir ranges between −10% and −66%. We find that even with the well-instrumented setting near Yellowstone, the recovered shear velocity anomalies in the mid-to-upper crust are severely diminished due to the small spatial scale of the reservoir with respect to the seismic wavelengths that sample it. In particular, recovered VS anomalies could be reduced by a factor of two or more, implying that the inferred melt fraction of large-scale continental magma reservoirs may be considerably underestimated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GC010446
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • magmatic systems
  • tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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