The influences of surface temperature on upwellings in planetary convection with phase transitions

Volker Steinbach, David A. Yuen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The importance of surface temperature for mantle convection appears with the presence of adiabatic heating and cooling and the release and consumption of latent heat in the presence of phase transitions. For some planetary bodies these effects cannot be neglected. The dimensionless surface temperature T0, which is the ratio between the temperature at the top of the convective region and the temperature drop across the mantle, is close to one for Mars and Venus. For the Earth, T0 lies between 0.2 and 0.5. The dynamical influence of T0 is especially poignant for internally heated convection with temperature-dependent viscosity. There is a tight coupling between the magnitude of the temperature field and the viscosity itself. We have studied temperature-dependent viscosity convection for both low-T0 (0.2) and high-T0 (1.2) situations and with internal heating in mantle convection with two upper-mantle phase transitions. Our results show that within this range of T0 there exist two regimes for the evolution of upwellings in the mantle. In transient situations plume-plume collisions lead to the formation of megaplumes for high-T0 regimes but are less likely to do so for low T0. In the long-term regime, plumes with low T0 are prone to develop from the transition zone with a supply of hot material coming from the shallow lower mantle. In systems with high T0, however, long-lived plumes tend to have deeper mantle origins. In quasi-layered situations high T0 may act as a positive feed-back mechanism in inducing powerful hot upwellings into the upper mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Oct 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank discussions with David Brunet and Doris Breuer. We also thank T. Ratcliff and A. Lenardic for helpful reviews. V. Steinbach was supported by a M.S.I. travel award. This research has been supported by the geophysics program of the National Science Foundation. [RV]


  • Convection
  • Earth
  • Mantle plumes
  • Phase transitions
  • Venus


Dive into the research topics of 'The influences of surface temperature on upwellings in planetary convection with phase transitions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this