The role of heat source for spatio-temporal variations of mantle plumes
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Hot mantle plumes ascending from the core-mantle boundary experience a filtering effect by the endothermic phase change at the 660-km discontinuity. Fluid dynamics predicts that some hot mantle plumes stagnate at the phase boundary and locally heat the bottom of the upper mantle. This generates the secondary plumes in the upper mantle originating hotspots volcanic activities on the Earth’s surface. Recently, seismic tomographic images around the upper-lower mantle boundary showed that the horizontal scale of the low velocity regions, which corresponds to that of the thermally buoyant heat sources, is the order of 100-1000 km. Although most of the fluid dynamic theories on the thermal plumes have been developed using an assumption that the heat source effect is negligible, the behaviors of the starting plumes in the upper mantle should depend on the size of heat source, which is generated by the hotter plume from the CMB. In order to understand the effects of heater size on the starting plume generation, we have experimentally investigated the behaviors of thermally buoyant plumes using a localized heat source (circular plate heater). The combination of quantitative visualization techniques of temperature (Thermochromic Liquid Crystals) and velocity (Particle Image Velocimetry) fields reveals the transient nature of the plume evolution: a variety of the spatio-tempotal distribution of plumes. Simple scaling laws for their ascent velocity and spacing of the plumes are experimentally determined. We also estimate the onset time of the secondary plumes in the upper mantle which depends on the local characteristics of the thermal boundary layer developing at the upper-lower mantle boundary.