Lower Mantle Superplume Growth Stimulates Geomagnetic Reversals

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Peter Olson, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, United States and Hagay Amit, LPGN Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes, Nantes Cedex 03, France
Seismic images of the lower mantle heterogeneity consistently show two large-scale, low shear wave velocity provinces beneath Africa and the Pacific that are variously interpreted as superplumes, plume clusters, or piles of dense mantle material associated with the D" boundary layer. Hotspot reconstructions and mantle general circulation models indicate these structures have persisted for 100 Ma or longer. Here we demonstrate that time variations in the height of these structures perturbs the thickness of the D" thermal boundary layer and the heat flow across the core-mantle boundary, thereby altering the rate at which geomagnetic polarity reversals occur in the core. First we show that superplume growth increases the average heat flow on the core-mantle boundary as well as its lateral heterogeneity. We then use numerical dynamos to demonstrate that this increased core-mantle boundary heat flow stimulates magnetic polarity reversals, and conversely, that reduced core-mantle boundary heat flow associated with superplume collapse tends to inhibit polarity reversals. Our results suggest that the long, stable polarity geomagnetic superchrons such as occurred in the Cretaceous, Permian, and earlier in the geologic record may have begun and ended, respectively, by collapse and growth of one or more lower mantle superplumes.