Seismic and Geodynamic Constraints on Compositional Heterogeneity in the Lower Mantle: Implications for Deeply-Rooted Hot Upwellings Under the African and Pacific Plates

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 3:28 PM
Alessandro M Forte, University of Quebec at Montreal UQAM, Montreal, QC, Canada, Petar Glisovic, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada, David B Rowley, Univ Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States, Nathan A Simmons, Lawrence Livermore Nat'l Lab, Livermore, CA, United States, Stephen P Grand, University of Texas, Austin, TX, United States and Chang Lu, University of Texas at Austin, Jackson School of Geosciences, Austin, TX, United States
We present the results of a series of tests that probe the possible existence of compositionally distinct material in the central core of the LLSVPs under the African and Pacific plates using tomography-based mantle flow models that employ several independently-derived viscosity profiles (Mitrovica & Forte 2004, Behn et al. 2004, Steinberger & Calderwood 2006, Forte et al. 2010). We also consider four global tomography models derived from seismic shear velocity data alone (Grand 2002, Panning & Romanowicz 2006, Kustowski et al. 2008, Ritsema et al. 2011). The possible combinations of viscosity and tomography models yield 16 different tests for compositional heterogeneity inside the LLSVPs. In all tests we begin with a mineral physical scaling between lower-mantle shear velocity and density anomalies that assumes thermal effects are dominant everywhere, including within the LLSVPs. We find it is not possible, in any of the tests, to obtain a satisfactory fit to surface geodynamic data, especially the global, long-wavelength gravity anomalies and space-geodetic inferences of excess CMB flattening with a purely thermal interpretation of lower-mantle heterogeneity. If we introduce compositionally-distinct material in the central portions of the LLSVPs, all tests show a notable improvement in the fit to the gravity anomaly and CMB ellipticity data. An optimal reconciliation of the gravity and CMB data is obtained by extending compositional heterogeneity upwards, with maximum-amplitude in the seismic D"-layer and tapering off to negligible values in the mid-mantle. A robust assessment of the dynamical impact of this deeply-rooted compositional heterogeneity is obtained with maps of "mean" convective flow, by averaging the results of all 16 test cases. We find (see map below) dominant lower-mantle upwellings below the axis of the East Pacific Rise (EPR), and under the Caroline Islands in the Western Pacific. Under the African plate we find large-scale upwellings under the southern half of the East African Rift and under the Cape Verde Islands. The EPR "plume" has a special significance because of its association with Earth's dominant spreading ridge and plate-kinematic inferences of strong lateral fixity of this ridge over the past 83 Ma (Rowley et al. 2011).