Determining resolvability of mantle plumes with synthetic seismic modeling

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ross Maguire1, Peter E Van Keken1, Jeroen Ritsema1, Andreas Fichtner2 and Saskia D B Goes3, (1)University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (2)ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, (3)Imperial College London, London, SW7, United Kingdom
Hotspot volcanism in locations such as Hawaii and Iceland is commonly thought to be associated with plumes rising from the deep mantle. In theory these dynamic upwellings should be visible in seismic data due to their reduced seismic velocity and their effect on mantle transition zone thickness. Numerous studies have attempted to image plumes [1,2,3], but their deep mantle origin remains unclear. In addition, a debate continues as to whether lower mantle plumes are visible in the form of body wave travel time delays, or whether such delays will be erased due to wavefront healing. Here we combine geodynamic modeling of mantle plumes with synthetic seismic waveform modeling in order to quantitatively determine under what conditions mantle plumes should be seismically visible. We model compressible plumes with phase changes at 410 km and 670 km, and a viscosity reduction in the upper mantle. These plumes thin from greater than 600 km in diameter in the lower mantle, to 200 – 400 km in the upper mantle. Plume excess potential temperature is 375 K, which maps to seismic velocity reductions of 4 – 12 % in the upper mantle, and 2 – 4 % in the lower mantle. Previous work that was limited to an axisymmetric spherical geometry suggested that these plumes would not be visible in the lower mantle [4]. Here we extend this approach to full 3D spherical wave propagation modeling. Initial results using a simplified cylindrical plume conduit suggest that mantle plumes with a diameter of 1000 km or greater will retain a deep mantle seismic signature.


[1] Wolfe, Cecily J., et al. "Seismic structure of the Iceland mantle plume." Nature 385.6613 (1997): 245-247.

[2] Montelli, Raffaella, et al. "Finite-frequency tomography reveals a variety of plumes in the mantle." Science 303.5656 (2004): 338-343.

[3] Schmandt, Brandon, et al. "Hot mantle upwelling across the 660 beneath Yellowstone." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 331 (2012): 224-236.

[4] Hwang, Yong Keun, et al. "Wavefront healing renders deep plumes seismically invisible." Geophysical Journal International 187.1 (2011): 273-277.