Effects of Rotation on the Differentiation of a terrestrial Magma Ocean

Friday, 19 December 2014
Christian Maas and Ulrich Hansen, University of Münster, Institute for Geophysics, Münster, Germany
It is widely accepted that the Earth experienced several large impacts during its early evolution which led to the formation of one or more magma oceans. Differentiation processes in such a magma ocean are of great importance for the initial conditions of mantle convection and for the subsequent mantle structure. Convection in a magma ocean is most likely very vigorous. Further, rotation of the early Earth is supposed to be very fast. Therefore, and due to the small viscosity, it can be assumed that differentiation is strongly affected by rotation.
To study the influence of rotation on the crystallization of a magma ocean, we employed a 3D Cartesian numerical model with low Prandtl number and used a discrete element method to describe silicate crystals.
Our results show a crucial dependence on crystal density, rotation rate and latitude. Low rotation at the pole leads to a large fraction of suspended particles. With increasing rotation the particles settle at the bottom and form a stable stratified layer. In contrast to that at the equator at low rotation all particles settle at the bottom, at higher rotation they form a layer of significant thickness and at the highest rotation rate the particles accumulate in the middle of the magma ocean. In addition to that, we observe that due to the Coriolis force silicate crystals with different densities separate from each other. While lighter particles are at the bottom, denser particles accumulate at mid-depth at the same rotation rate. This could result in an unstable stratified mantle in the equatorial region after magma ocean solidification.
All in all, rotation could lead to an asymmetrical crystallization of the magma ocean, with a contrary layering at the pole and the equator. This affects the composition of the early mantle and could explain the development of a localized magma ocean at the core-mantle boundary and the development of phase transitions observed in seismology, like the mantle transition zone.