Dual aspects of mantle convection through time: Changes in global upper mantle temperature, Earth's rotation, and global plate motion acceleration induced by mantle avalanches

Philippe Machetel, Erik O D Sevre, Emilie Thomassot, David A. Yuen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The mean depth of the mantle transition zone depends on the global mantle temperature through the Clapeyron slope. Numerical models of mantle convection with endothermic phase change at 670 km are characterized by quiet periods of partial layering alternating with catastrophic events. During an avalanche, global thermal anomalies, reaching several tens of degrees, and lasting several tens of million years occur that induce a global deepening of the mantle transition zone. The resulting inertia tensor perturbations lead to acceleration of the Earth's rotation. The bottom heat fluxes remains strong as a consequence of the steep thermal gradient at the CMB level; whereas it decreases to a low level during quiet periods. The upper surface heat flux displays a more complex behavior due to the re-heating of upper mantle by plumes generated at the transition zone and at the CMB. Following these numerical results, two significantly different regimes of mantle convection may have alternated several times during the Earth's history. The avalanche periods are also associated with a global increase of plate tectonic activity (ridge accretion and continental break-up) due to an increase of the surface velocity during the avalanche process. This work shows the richness of the behavior in surfaces and bottom heat fluxes that arises from the alternation of quiet periods of partial layering with catastrophic avalanche events. Complexities in the real Earth displays are surprisingly simular to those caused by the consequences of mantle avalanches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVisual Geosciences
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003

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