Despite progress in tomographic imaging of Earth's interior, a number of critical questions regarding the large-scale structure and dynamics of the mantle remain outstanding. One of those questions is the impact of phase-boundary undulations on global imaging of mantle heterogeneity and on geodynamic (i.e. convection-related) observables. To address this issue, we developed a joint seismic-geodynamic-mineral physical tomographic inversion procedure that incorporates lateral variations in the depths of the 410- and 660-km discontinuities. This inversion includes S-wave traveltimes, SS precursors that are sensitive to transition-zone topography, geodynamic observables/data (free-air gravity, dynamic surface topography, horizontal divergence of tectonic plates and excess core-mantle boundary ellipticity) and mineral physical constraints on thermal heterogeneity. Compared to joint tomography models that do not include data sensitivity to phase-boundary undulations in the transition zone, the inclusion of 410- and 660-km topography strongly influences the inference of volumetric anomalies in a depth interval that encompasses the transition zone and mid-mantle. It is notable that joint tomography inversions, which include constraints on transition-zone discontinuity topography by seismic and geodynamic data, yield more pronounced density anomalies associated with subduction zones and hotspots. We also find that the inclusion of 410- and 660-km topography may improve the fit to the geodynamic observables, depending on the weights applied to seismic and geodynamic data in the inversions. As a consequence, we find that the amplitude of non-thermal density anomalies required to explain the geodynamic data decreases in most of the mantle. These findings underline the sensitivity of the joint inversions to the inclusion of transition-zone complexity (e.g. phase-boundary topography) and the implications for the inferred non-thermal density anomalies in these depth regions. Finally, we underline that our inferences of 410- and 660-km topography avoid a commonly employed approximation that represents the contribution of volumetric heterogeneity to SS-wave precursor data. Our results suggest that this previously employed correction, based on a priori estimates of upper-mantle heterogeneity, might be a significant source of error in estimating the 410- and 660-km topography.
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- Geophysical journal international
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- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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The mantle transition zone (MTZ) of Earth is demarcated by solid‐to‐solid phase changes of the mineral olivine that produce seismic discontinuities at 410 and 660‐km depths. Mineral physics experiments predict that wadsleyite can have strong single‐crystal anisotropy at the pressure and temperature conditions of the MTZ. Thus, significant seismic anisotropy is possible in the upper MTZ where lattice‐preferred orientation of wadsleyite is produced by mantle flow. Here, we use a body wave method, SS precursors, to study the topography change and seismic anisotropy near the MTZ discontinuities. We stack the data to explore the azimuthal dependence of travel‐times and amplitudes of SS precursors and constrain the azimuthal anisotropy in the MTZ. Beneath the central Pacific, we find evidence for ~4% anisotropy with a SE fast direction in the upper mantle and no significant anisotropy in the MTZ. In subduction zones, we observe ~4% anisotropy with a trench‐parallel fast direction in the upper mantle and ~3% anisotropy with a trench‐perpendicular fast direction in the MTZ. The transition of fast directions indicates that the lattice‐preferred orientation of wadsleyite induced by MTZ flow is organized separately from the flow in the upper mantle. Global azimuthal stacking reveals ~1% azimuthal anisotropy in the upper mantle but negligible anisotropy (<1%) in the MTZ. Finally, we correct for the upper mantle and MTZ anisotropy structures to obtain a new MTZ topography model. The anisotropy correction produces
±3 km difference and therefore has minor overall effects on global MTZ topography.
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