Top Driven Asymmetric Mantle Convection

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:10 PM
Carlo Doglioni, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy and Don L Anderson, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
The role of the decoupling in the low-velocity zone is crucial for understanding the mechanisms governing plate tectonics and mantle convection. Mantle convection models fail to integrate plate kinematics and thermodynamics of the mantle. We computed the volume of the plates lost along subduction zones, which is about 306 km3/yr (±15). Mass balance predicts that slabs are compensated by broad passive upwellings beneath oceans, mainly at oceanic ridges and backarc basins. These may correspond to the broad low wavespeed regions found in the upper mantle by tomography. However, W-directed slabs enter the mantle more than 3 times faster (232 km3/yr ±15) than the opposite E- or NE-directed subduction zones (74 km3/yr ±15). This is consistent with the westward drift of the outer shell relative to the underlying mantle, which accounts for the steep dip of W-directed slabs, and the asymmetry between the flanks of oceanic ridges, and the directions of ridge migration. The larger recycling volumes along W-directed subduction zones implies i) asymmetry of the cooling of the underlying mantle and ii) it constrains the “easterly” directed component of the upwelling replacement mantle. In this model, mantle convection is tuned by polarized decoupling of the advecting and shearing upper boundary layer. Return mantle flow can be envisaged as a result of passive volume balance rather than as a thermal buoyancy driven upwelling.