Seismic tomography and mixing in the deep earth
- 1Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A7, Canada
- 2Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Abstract. Recently constructed tomographic models of the lateral heterogeneity of elastic properties in the Earth's mantle are contrasted in terms of their implications concerning the extent to which the endothermic phase transformation at 660 km depth is influencing the radial style of mixing. Previously published whole mantle and split mantle tomographic reconstructions, SH8/WMI3 and SH8/U4L8 respectively, fit the seismic observations equally well but disagree on the extent to which radial mixing may be impeded across this depth horizon. We show that inferences from seismic tomographic images based on the application of diagnostic functions (global and regional variance spectra and the radial correlation function) lead to the conclusion that the mantle circulation is whole mantle in style if model SH8/WM13 is employed. The split mantle tomographic inversion SHS/U4L8 leads to the contradictory conclusion that the mantle circulation is significantly impeded across the 660 km depth horizon. This latter interpretation is reinforced when we employ the new higher resolution split mantle model SH12/U7L5 in our calculations. We demonstrate that the depth-dependent radial heat flow delivered by both of the split models implies the existence of a thermal boundary layer at 660 km depth, and therefore significant layering, whereas that delivered by the whole mantle model does not. By insisting that the depth-dependent viscosity profile of the mantle be compatible with the thermal structure if the flow were layered, we argue that the split mantle tomographic inversions lead to a self-consistent description of geodynamic constraints (geoid and postglacial rebound data).