A Dynamical Context for Small-scale Heterogeneity Throughout the Mantle Beneath Subduction
Abstract:Subduction zones are a source for mantle heterogeneity within the convection system and there is mounting evidence that seismic signatures can be used to track slabs down from the surface throughout the mantle. Seismic studies of the mantle beneath Central America demonstrate that subducted slab material reaches the Core-Mantle Boundary (CMB). The lowermost mantle beneath this convergent margin shows strong seismic evidence for heterogeneity. Tomographic models characterise subduction zones to be underlain by increased seismic velocities over 100s-1000s km laterally, in association with D′´ discontinuities 100-300 km above the CMB, consistent with phase transitions in the Bridgmanite system. Recent analyses have found evidence for isolated Ultra Low Velocity Zones in addition to prevalent fine-scale heterogeneity, on the order of 1-10 km, scattering high frequency waves. These techniques indicate thermal and/or chemical anomalies within the mantle on a range of scales. Numerical geodynamical simulations suggest small-scale mechanical mixing of initially coherent compositionally anomalous subducted material separating into entities of various sizes consistent with the range of heterogeneity sizes observed in the lower mantle.
Investigating seismic scattering, the re-radiation of a wavefront due to interaction with a sharply contrasting volumetric anomaly, is an effective method for studying small-scale elastic heterogeneities in the Earth's mantle. Studies commonly record structure with scale lengths of about 10 km. Here we analyse scattered energy related to PKPPKP — PKP•PKP (the • indicates the scattering location along the raypath) — sampling a large volume of the mantle beneath Central America. We reveal the character of heterogeneity in various frequency bands within the whole mantle using both broadband and short-period data. These observations will be placed in context with other studies in this region illustrating the large-scale background structure and localised phenomena. We interpret these findings in terms of the downwelling part of the whole mantle convection cycle, which is capable of introducing heterogeneities entrained by subduction, including basaltic oceanic crust, possibly altered by entrainment of hydrated phases from the upper mantle.