Crustal properties of the northern Scandinavian mountains and Fennoscandian shield from analysis of teleseismic receiver functions

The presence of high mountains along passive margins is not unusual, as shown by their presence in several regions (Scandinavia, Greenland, East US, SW Africa, Brazil, West India and SE Australia). However, the origin of this topography is not well understood. The mountain range between the Scandinavian passive margin and the Fennoscandian shield is a good example. A simple Airy isostatic model would predict a compensating root beneath the mountains but existing seismic measurements of variations in crustal thickness do not provide evidence of a root of sufficient size to produce the necessary compensation. In order to better constrain the physical properties of the crust in northern Scandinavia, two broad-band seismic networks were deployed between 2007 and 2009 and between 2013 and 2014. A new map of crustal thickness has been produced from P-receiver function analysis of teleseismic data recorded at 31 seismic stations. The map shows an increase in crustal thickness from the Atlantic coast (38.7 ± 1.8  km) to the Gulf of Bothnia (43.5 ± 2.4  km). This gradient in thickness demonstrates that the Moho topography does not mirror the variation in surface topography in this region. Thus, classical Airy isostatic models cannot explain how the surface topography is supported. New maps showing variation in Poisson’s ratio and Moho sharpness together with forward and inverse modelling provide new information about the contrasting properties of the Fennoscandian shield and crust reworked by the Caledonian orogeny. A sharp Moho transition (R > 1) and low value of Vs (3.5 ± 0.2  km s−1) are observed beneath the orogen. The shield is characterized by a gradual transition across the Moho (R < 1) and Vs of 3.8 ± 0.1  km s−1 which is more typical of average continental crust. These observations are explained by a Fennoscandian shield underplated with a thick layer of high velocity, high density material. It is proposed that this layer has been removed or reworked beneath the orogen.