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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024

    Mantle plumes form from thermal boundary layers, such as Earth's core–mantle boundary. As plumes rise towards the surface, they are laterally deflected by the surrounding mantle flow that is governed by deep mantle density and viscosity structures. The lateral motions of mantle plumes carry information of deep mantle structure and dynamics and are used to setup reference frames by which absolute plate motions are reconstructed. In this study, we compare two methods to compute deep mantle flow and lateral motion of plumes. In mantle convection (MC) models, the mantle flow field and lateral motions of plumes are determined by solving conservation equations forward-in-time from given initial conditions. In plume advection (PA) models, approximate viscosity and present-day density structures are used to calculate present-day mantle flow which is then propagated backward-in-time assuming zero thermal diffusion, and plume conduits are represented by continuous lines and are passively advected within the background mantle flow. The question is how assumptions in PA models influence the predictions of deep mantle flow and plume lateral motions. Here, we perform purely thermal MC models and thermochemical MC models with intrinsically dense materials in the lowermost mantle. The deep mantle flow and plume lateral motions are determined accurately in each MC model. We also perform PA models using the approximated present-day viscosity and temperature structures in these MC models. We find that PA models without considering temperature-dependence of viscosity and/or only using long wavelength present-day temperature structure (up to degree 20) often lead to an average of ∼50–60 per cent and ∼60–200 per cent differences of present-day mantle flow velocities than purely thermal MC models and thermochemical MC models, respectively. By propagating inaccurate flow fields backward-in-time in PA models often cause even larger errors of mantle flow velocities in the past. Even using the same parameters and starting from the same present-day mantle flow fields as in MC models, the PA models still show an average of ∼10–30 per cent misfit of mantle flow velocities after ∼40 Ma.

    In addition, we show that errors of mantle flow fields in PA models can cause ∼100–600 per cent differences of plume lateral motions than that constrained in MC models in the past 60 Ma. Even we use the mantle flow in MC models to advected virtual plumes in PA models, the virtual plumes could still show ∼50–300 per cent difference of lateral motions than dynamic plumes in MC models if the virtual plumes do not start with the same locations and/or shapes as plumes in MC models. We also find virtual plumes in PA models initiated at different locations and/or with different shapes can be later advected to similar locations, suggesting that the lateral motions of plumes in PA models can be non-unique. Therefore, it is important to consider the build-in assumptions of PA models when interpreting their predictions on deep mantle flow field and plume lateral motions. The accuracy of PA models would improve as we gain better understanding on Earth's deep mantle structure and dynamics.

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  4. Anomalies along Earth’s core can be explained by former oceanic seafloor that descended 3000 km to the base of the mantle. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 5, 2024
  5. Abstract

    We compile and make publicly available a global digital database of body wave observations of seismic anisotropy in the D′′ layer, grouped using the method used to analyze deep mantle anisotropy. Using this database, we examine the global distribution of seismic anisotropy in the D′′ layer, evaluating the question of whether seismic anisotropy is more likely to be located at the edges of the two large‐low velocity provinces (LLVPs) in Earth's mantle than elsewhere. We show that this hypothesis lacks statistical justification if we consider previously observed lowermost mantle anisotropy, although there are multiple factors that are difficult to account for quantitatively. One such factor is the global lowermost mantle ray coverage for different phases that are commonly used to detect deep mantle anisotropy in shear wave splitting studies. We find that the global ray coverage of the relevant seismic phases is highly uneven, with LLVP edges and their interiors less well‐sampled than the global average.

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  6. Abstract

    Two large low velocity provinces (LLVPs) are observed in Earth's lower mantle, beneath Africa and the Pacific Ocean, respectively. The maximum height of the African LLVP is ∼1,000 km larger than that of the Pacific LLVP, but what causes this height difference remains unclear. LLVPs are often interpreted as thermochemical piles whose morphology is greatly controlled by the surrounding mantle flow. Seismic observations have revealed that while some subducted slabs are laterally deflected at ∼660–1,200 km, other slabs penetrate into the lowermost mantle. Here, through geodynamic modeling experiments, we show that rapid sinking of stagnant slabs to the lowermost mantle can cause significant height increases of nearby thermochemical piles. Our results suggest that the African LLVP may have been pushed more strongly and longer by surrounding mantle flows to reach a much shallower depth than the Pacific LLVP, perhaps since the Tethys slabs sank to the lowermost mantle.

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  7. SUMMARY The presence of seismic anisotropy at the base of the Earth's mantle is well established, but there is no consensus on the deformation mechanisms in lower mantle minerals that could explain it. Strong anisotropy in magnesium post-perovskite (pPv) has been invoked, but different studies disagree on the dominant slip systems at play. Here, we aim to further constrain this by implementing the most recent results from atomistic models and high-pressure deformation experiments, coupled with a realistic composition and a 3-D geodynamic model, to compare the resulting deformation-induced anisotropy with seismic observations of the lowermost mantle. We account for forward and reverse phase transitions from bridgmanite (Pv) to pPv. We find that pPv with either dominant (001) or (010) slip can both explain the seismically observed anisotropy in colder regions where downwellings turn to horizontal flow, but only a model with dominant (001) slip matches seismic observations at the root of hotter large-scale upwellings. Allowing for partial melt does not change these conclusions, while it significantly increases the strength of anisotropy and reduces shear and compressional velocities at the base of upwellings. 
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