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We present a new global model for the Earth’s lithosphere and upper mantle (LithoRef18) obtained
through a formal joint inversion of 3-D gravity anomalies, geoid height, satellite-derived
gravity gradients and absolute elevation complemented with seismic, thermal and petrological
prior information. The model includes crustal thickness, average crustal density, lithospheric
thickness, depth-dependent density of the lithospheric mantle, lithospheric geotherms, and average
density of the sublithospheric mantle down to 410 km depth with a surface discretization
of 2◦ × 2◦. Our results for lithospheric thickness and sublithospheric density structure are in
excellent agreement with estimates from recent seismic tomography models. A comparison
with higher resolution regional studies in a number of regions around the world indicates that
our values of crustal thickness and density are an improvement over a number of previous
global crustal models. Given the strong similarity with recent tomography models down to
410 km depth, LithoRef18 can be readily merged with these seismic models to include seismic
velocities as part of the reference model. We include several analyses of robustness and
reliability of input data, method and results. We also provide easy-to-use codes to interrogate
the model and use its predictions for the development of higher-resolution models.
Considering the model‘s features and data fitting statistics, LithoRef18 will be useful in
a wide range of geophysical and geochemical applications by serving as a reference or initial
lithospheric model for (i) higher-resolution gravity, seismological and/or integrated geophysical
studies of the lithosphere and upper mantle, (ii) including far-field effects in gravity-based
regional studies, (iii) global circulation/convection models that link the lithosphere with the
deep Earth, (iv) estimating residual, static and dynamic topography, (v) thermal modelling of
sedimentary basins and (vi) studying the links between the lithosphere and the deep Earth,
among others. Several avenues for improving the reliability of LithoRef18’s predictions are
also discussed. Finally, the inversion methodology presented in this work can be applied in
other planets for which potential field data sets are either the only or major constraints to their
internal structures (e.g. Moon, Venus, etc.).
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