The effect of metastable pyroxene on the slab dynamics

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Roberto Agrusta1, Jeroen Van Hunen1 and Saskia D B Goes2, (1)University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom, (2)Imperial College London, London, SW7, United Kingdom
Global seismic studies show variations near the base of mantle transition zone, where some slabs penetrate straight into the lower mantle, whereas others seem to flatten. The dynamics of cold subducting slabs are mainly controlled by negative thermal buoyancy forces and by buoyancy anomalies due to density contrasts of the different mineralogical phases. Recent experiments show that pyroxene dissolves into the denser garnet, forming the majorite-garnet, at very slow rates, and pyroxene can remain metastable to temperatures as high as 1400 °C.
Because metastable pyroxene may potentially persist in subduction zones over large volumes and to great depths, a self-consistent subduction model has been used to investigate the influence of metastable phase on the dynamics of subducting oceanic lithosphere. The phase boundary of pyroxene to garnet (300 km equilibrium depth) is considered together with the phase transition of olivine to wadsleyite (410 km equilibrium), and ringwoodite to perovskite-magnesiowustite (670 km equilibrium). The kinetics of the phase transition for ol-wd and in px-gt are treated considering a temperature-dependent diffusion rate. To quantify the buoyant contributions of the metastable phase on the subduction dynamics, an extensive parameter sensitivity study has been performed.
Results from this study illustrate that metastable pyroxene affects slab buoyancy at least as much as olivine metastability. Slab age and phase change kinetics are the most dominant parameters, and buoyancy effects are stronger for old subducting lithosphere and for low diffusion rates, favouring slab stagnation in the transition zone.