Grain size evolution in the mantle and its effect on geodynamics and seismic observables

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Robert Myhill1, Juliane Dannberg2, Zach Eilon3, Rene Gassmoeller2, Pritwiraj Moulik3, Ulrich Faul4 and Paul D Asimow5, (1)Bayerisches Geoinstitut, Universitaet Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany, (2)Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany, (3)Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States, (4)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States, (5)California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
Dynamic models of Earth’s convecting mantle usually implement flow laws with constant grain size, stress-independent viscosity and a limited treatment of variations associated with changes in mineral assemblage. These simplifications greatly reduce computational requirements but preclude effects such as shear localisation and transient changes in rheology associated with phase transitions, which have the potential to fundamentally change flow patterns in the mantle.

Here we use the finite-element code ASPECT (Bangerth et al., 2013) to model grain size evolution and the interplay between grain size, stress and strain rate in the convecting mantle. We include the simultaneous and competing effects of dynamic recrystallisation resulting from work done by dislocation creep, grain growth and recrystallisation at phase transitions. Further expressions account for slow growth in multiphase assemblages resulting from pinning.

Grain size variations also affect seismic properties of mantle materials. We use several formulations from the literature to relate intrinsic variables (P, T, and grain size) from our numerical models to seismic velocity (Vs) and attenuation (Q). Our calculations use thermodynamically self-consistent anharmonic elastic moduli determined for the mineral assemblages in the mantle using HeFESTo (Stixrude and Lithgow-Bertelloni, 2013). We investigate the effect of realistically heterogeneous grain sizes by computing seismic observables such as body wave travel times, ray paths, and attenuation (t*) as well as mode eigenfrequencies and quality factors at different frequencies. We highlight the frequency-dependent sensitivity of seismic waves to grain size, which is important when interpreting Vs and Q observations in terms of mineral assemblage and temperature.

This work is based on a project started at the CIDER 2014 summer program.


Bangerth, W. et al., 2014, ASPECT: Advanced Solver for Problems in Earth's ConvecTion. Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics, 2014.

Stixrude, L. and Lithgow-Bertelloni, C., HeFESTo: Thermodynamics and Elasticity of the Mantle, AGU Fall Meeting 2013.