Gravity Maps of Antarctic Lithospheric Structure from Remote-Sensing and Seismic Data

Robert Tenzer, Wenjin Chen, Alexey Baranov, Mohammad Bagherbandi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Remote-sensing data from altimetry and gravity satellite missions combined with seismic information have been used to investigate the Earth’s interior, particularly focusing on the lithospheric structure. In this study, we use the subglacial bedrock relief BEDMAP2, the global gravitational model GOCO05S, and the ETOPO1 topographic/bathymetric data, together with a newly developed (continental-scale) seismic crustal model for Antarctica to compile the free-air, Bouguer, and mantle gravity maps over this continent and surrounding oceanic areas. We then use these gravity maps to interpret the Antarctic crustal and uppermost mantle structure. We demonstrate that most of the gravity features seen in gravity maps could be explained by known lithospheric structures. The Bouguer gravity map reveals a contrast between the oceanic and continental crust which marks the extension of the Antarctic continental margins. The isostatic signature in this gravity map confirms deep and compact orogenic roots under the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains and more complex orogenic structures under Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica. Whereas the Bouguer gravity map exhibits features which are closely spatially correlated with the crustal thickness, the mantle gravity map reveals mainly the gravitational signature of the uppermost mantle, which is superposed over a weaker (long-wavelength) signature of density heterogeneities distributed deeper in the mantle. In contrast to a relatively complex and segmented uppermost mantle structure of West Antarctica, the mantle gravity map confirmed a more uniform structure of the East Antarctic Craton. The most pronounced features in this gravity map are divergent tectonic margins along mid-oceanic ridges and continental rifts. Gravity lows at these locations indicate that a broad region of the West Antarctic Rift System continuously extends between the Atlantic–Indian and Pacific–Antarctic mid-oceanic ridges and it is possibly formed by two major fault segments. Gravity lows over the Transantarctic Mountains confirms their non-collisional origin. Additionally, more localized gravity lows closely coincide with known locations of hotspots and volcanic regions (Marie Byrd Land, Balleny Islands, Mt. Erebus). Gravity lows also suggest a possible hotspot under the South Orkney Islands. However, this finding has to be further verified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2181-2203
Number of pages23
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Antarctica
  • crust
  • gravity
  • lithosphere
  • upper mantle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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