Subducted oceanic crust as the origin of seismically slow lower-mantle structures

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Timothy D. Jones, Ross Maguire, Peter van Keken, Jeroen Ritsema, Paula Koelemeijer


Mantle tomography reveals the existence of two large low shear velocity provinces (LLSVPs) at the base of the mantle. We examine here the hypothesis that they are piles of oceanic crust that have steadily accumulated and warmed over billions of years. We use existing global geodynamic models in which dense oceanic crust forms at divergent plate boundaries and subducts at convergent ones. The model suite covers the predicted density range for oceanic crust over lower mantle conditions. To meaningfully compare our geodynamic models to tomographic structures we convert them into models of seismic wavespeed and explicitly account for the limited resolving power of tomography. Our results demonstrate that long-term recycling of dense oceanic crust naturally leads to the formation of thermochemical piles with seismic characteristics similar to the LLSVPs. The extent to which oceanic crust contributes to the LLSVPs depends upon its density in the lower mantle for which accurate data is lacking. We find that the LLSVPs are not composed solely of oceanic crust. Rather, they are basalt rich at their base (bottom 100--200~km) and grade into peridotite toward their sides and top with the strength of their seismic signature arising from the dominant role of temperature. We conclude that recycling of oceanic crust, if sufficiently dense, has a strong influence on the thermal and chemical evolution of Earths mantle.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Seismic tomography, Geodynamics, Geodynamical Modeling, Mantle Composition, Mantle Structure


Published: 2020-02-21 12:02


GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1

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