Coupled dynamics and evolution of primordial and recycled heterogeneity in Earth’s lower mantle

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Anna Gülcher , Maxim Ballmer, Paul Tackley


The nature of compositional heterogeneity in Earth’s lower mantle remains a long-standing puzzle that can inform about the long-term thermochemical evolution and dynamics of our planet. Here, we use global-scale 2D models of thermo- chemical mantle convection to investigate the coupled evolution and mixing of (intrinsically-dense) recycled and (intrinsically- strong) primordial heterogeneity in the mantle. We explore the effects of ancient compositional layering of the mantle, as motivated by magma-ocean solidification studies, and of the physical parameters of primordial material. Depending on these physical parameters, our models predict various regimes of mantle evolution and heterogeneity preservation over 4.5 Gyrs. Over a wide parameter range, primordial and recycled heterogeneity are predicted to co-exist with each other in the lower mantle of Earth-like planets. Primordial material usually survives as mid-to-large scale blobs (or streaks) in the mid-mantle, around 1000-2000 km depth, and this preservation is largely independent on the initial primordial-material volume. In turn, recycled oceanic crust (ROC) persists as large piles at the base of the mantle and as small streaks everywhere else. In models with an additional dense FeO-rich layer initially present at the base of the mantle, the ancient dense material partially survives at the top of ROC piles, causing the piles to be compositionally stratified. Moreover, the addition of such an ancient FeO-rich basal layer significantly aids the preservation of the viscous domains in the mid-mantle. Finally, we find that primordial blobs are commonly directly underlain by thick ROC piles, and aid their longevity and stability. Based on our results, we propose an integrated style of mantle heterogeneity for the Earth, involving the preservation of primordial domains along with recycled piles. This style has important implications for early Earth evolution, and has the potential of reconciling geophysical and geochemical discrepancies on present-day lower-mantle heterogeneity.



Earth Sciences, Planetary Sciences


mantle, lower mantle, Mantle Composition, Mantle Heterogeneity, recycled, prmordial, mantle convection, numerical modelling


Published: 2021-12-04 03:43

Last Updated: 2021-12-04 11:43


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International