Seismological Expression of the Iron Spin Crossover in Ferropericlase in the Earth’s Lower Mantle

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Grace Shephard, Christine Houser, John Hernlund, Juan J. Valencia-Cardona, Reidar Trønnes, Renata Wentzkovitch


The two most abundant minerals on Earth which together make up over 90% of the Earth’s lower mantle are (Mg,Fe)O-ferropericlase (Fp) and (Mg,Fe)SiO3-bridgmanite (Bm). Iron in Fp undergoes a high-spin to low-spin (HS-LS) crossover that influences density, viscosity, elasticity, thermal conductivity, and elemental partitioning, however, the predicted effects of this transition are not apparent in global 1D seismic velocity profiles. This discrepancy suggests that the predictions are inaccurate, seismic resolution is insufficient to resolve the effects, or a substantial portion of the mid-lower mantle is relatively SiO2-rich (hence Fp poor) compared to the shallow mantle. The melt-depleted mantle lithosphere of subducted oceanic slabs that sink into the lower mantle contains 22% Fp, and thus offers the best opportunity to prospect for a spin change in Fp. Here we reveal a loss in the abundance of fast seismic velocity anomalies in compressional (P-wave) tomography models at 1,400-2,000 km depth that is opposite to the trend in shear (S-wave) models. This can be explained by the decreasing temperature sensitivity of P-velocity expected for the mixed spin state of iron in Fp at corresponding pressures7. We also observe a similar but subtle signal for seismically slow regions below 1,800 km, consistent with a pressure increase and broadening of the Fp spin transition at higher temperatures. Seismic wave raypath distribution is similar for both P- and S-waves in this depth range, therefore this signature cannot be attributed to substantial differences in data coverage. Our identification of the spin transition signal in seismically fast and slow regions indicates that the spin crossover can identify the presence of Fp in the lower mantle. The absence of a Fp spin crossover signal in global seismic profiles supports the notion that the lower mantle is chemically heterogeneous at large scales and contains SiO2-rich regions that suppress the average signature of these pressure-induced electron spin pairing transitions.



Earth Sciences, Geochemistry, Geophysics and Seismology, Mineral Physics, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Physics, Quantum Physics, Tectonics and Structure



Published: 2020-06-29 16:17

Last Updated: 2021-10-21 01:30

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