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Thermally Dominated Deep Mantle LLSVPs: A Review

  • D. R. DaviesEmail author
  • S. Goes
  • H. C. P. Lau
Chapter
Part of the Springer Geophysics book series (SPRINGERGEOPHYS)

Abstract

The two large low shear-wave velocity provinces (LLSVPs) that dominate lower-mantle structure may hold key information on Earth’s thermal and chemical evolution. It is generally accepted that these provinces are hotter than background mantle and are likely the main source of mantle plumes. Increasingly, it is also proposed that they hold a dense (primitive and/or recycled) compositional component. The principle evidence that LLSVPs may represent thermo-chemical ‘piles’ comes from seismic constraints, including the following: (i) their long-wavelength nature; (ii) sharp gradients in shear-wave velocity at their margins; (iii) non-Gaussian distributions of deep mantle shear-wave velocity anomalies; (iv) anti-correlated shear-wave and bulk-sound velocity anomalies (and elevated ratios between shear- and compressional-wave velocity anomalies); (v) anti-correlated shear-wave and density anomalies ; and (vi) 1-D/radial profiles of seismic velocity that deviate from those expected for an isochemical, well-mixed mantle. In addition, it has been proposed that hotspots and the reconstructed eruption sites of large igneous provinces correlate in location with LLSVP margins. In this paper, we review recent results which indicate that the majority of these constraints do not require thermo-chemical piles: they are equally well (or poorly) explained by thermal heterogeneity alone. Our analyses and conclusions are largely based on comparisons between imaged seismic structure and synthetic seismic structures from a set of thermal and thermo-chemical mantle convection models, which are constrained by ~300 Myr of plate motion histories. Modelled physical structure (temperature, pressure and composition) is converted into seismic velocities via a thermodynamic approach that accounts for elastic, anelastic and phase contributions and, subsequently, a tomographic resolution filter is applied to account for the damping and geographic bias inherent to seismic imaging . Our results indicate that, in terms of large-scale seismic structure and dynamics, these two provinces are predominantly thermal features and, accordingly, that chemical heterogeneity is largely a passive component of lowermost mantle dynamics.

Keywords

Mantle dynamics Earth structure Seismic tomography Chemical heterogeneity LLSVP Mantle plumes 

Notes

Acknowledgments

DRD was partially funded by Fellowships from NERC (NE/H015329/1) and the ARC (FT140101262). Numerical simulations were undertaken on: (i) HECToR, the UK’s national high-performance computing service, which is provided by UoE HPCx Ltd, at the University of Edinburgh, Cray Inc., and NAG Ltd, and funded by the Office of Science and Technology through EPSRC’s High End Computing Program; and (ii) the NCI National Facility in Canberra, Australia , which is supported by the Australian Commonwealth Government. Authors would like to thank Lars Stixrude and Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni for providing the lookup tables used in converting models from physical structure to seismic velocity; and Jeroen Ritsema for providing S40RTS’ resolution operator. Authors benefited from discussion with Huw Davies, Jeroen Ritsema, Hans-Peter Bunge, Bernhard Schuberth, Julie Prytulak, Brian Kennett, Ian Campbell and Geoff Davies. Authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on this manuscript, as well as Frederic Deschamps for editorial input.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Earth SciencesThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Earth Sciences and EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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