Seismic signal penetration beneath post-rift sills on the Newfoundland rifted margin

Donna J. Shillington, John R. Hopper, W. Steven Holbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Analysis of averaged, smoothed instantaneous frequency and amplitude of seismic-reflection data collected on the Newfoundland magma-starved rifted margin along the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) leg 210 transect demonstrate that the transparency of "transitional" crust arises from poor signal penetration. In principle, the high-frequency spectral content and amplitude of seismic reflection data should decrease with increasing traveltime as a result of absorption, geometric spreading, and scattering so long as seismic energy continues to return from deeper levels of the subsurface. As a result, if average frequency and amplitude cease to decrease with depth, background noise, rather than returning seismic energy, likely dominates the record. Average frequency increases and average amplitude remains comparatively constant below bright reflections overlying transitional crust on the Newfoundland margin. Similar patterns are not observed at the sediment-basement contact farther seaward in oceanic crust where intracrustal reflections are apparent. In thoserecords, both amplitude and frequency continue to decrease steadily for at least 2-3s below the top of basement. We interpret these observations as evidence that signal penetration is comparatively poor beneath bright reflections overlying transitional basement. Consequently, the featureless appearance of transitional crust on the Newfoundland margin in seismic-reflection profiles cannot be used to make inferences about its physical properties; instead, only seismic characteristics observed in rare basement highs that rise above bright reflections in the lowermost sedimentary section can provide meaningful information. Weak signal penetration in this crustal domain is consistent with the results from site 1276 during ODP leg 210, where interlayered diabase sills and sediments were recovered above basement, which would be expected to result in high reflection coefficients and low signal penetration. The apparent lack of seismic penetration throughout the transition zone off Newfoundland also implies interlayered sills and sediments might be widespread over this crustal domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)B99-B107
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Oceanic crust
  • Seismology
  • Tectonics

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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