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  1. Abstract

    The upper boundary of the mantle transition zone, known as the “410-km discontinuity”, is attributed to the phase transformation of the mineral olivine (α) to wadsleyite (β olivine). Here we present observations of triplicated P-waves from dense seismic arrays that constrain the structure of the subducting Pacific slab near the 410-km discontinuity beneath the northern Sea of Japan. Our analysis of P-wave travel times and waveforms at periods as short as 2 s indicates the presence of an ultra-low-velocity layer within the cold slab, with a P-wave velocity that is at least ≈20% lower than in the ambient mantle and an apparent thickness of ≈20 km along the wave path. This ultra-low-velocity layer could contain unstable material (e.g., poirierite) with reduced grain size where diffusionless transformations are favored.

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