P waves from earthquakes south of Taiwan, recorded by the BATS seismic array and CWB seismic network, were used define the P wavespeed structure between depths of 100 and 800 km below the Philippines region. The presence of a low wavespeed zone in the upper mantle is inferred, although the details are unclear. Wavespeeds in the uppermost mantle are low, as expected for seismic energy propagating within an oceanic plate. The estimated depths of the 410- and 660-km discontinuities are 325 and 676 km respectively. The unusually shallow depth of the upper discontinuity below and to the east of Luzon is inferred by clearly resolving the travel-time branch produced by refraction through the transition zone. A possible explanation for the northern part of the region covered is that seismic energy reaches its maximum depth within or close to the cool, subducted oceanic South China Sea slab where subduction has been slow and relatively recent. Further south, however, the presence of a broken remnant of the South China Sea slab, formed during a period of shallower subduction, is suggested at depths below 300 km to explain the broad extent of the elevated 410-km discontinuity. The 660-km discontinuity is slightly deeper than usual, implying that low temperatures persist to lower mantle depths. The wavespeed gradients within the transition zone between depths of 450 and 610 km are higher than those predicted by both the pyrolite and piclogite models of the mantle, possibly due to the presence of water in the transition zone. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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