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ISSN 1028 334X, Doklady Earth Sciences, 2012, Vol. 447, Part 1, pp. 12811283. Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.

., 2012. Original Russian Text V.P. Trubitsyn, A.N. Evseev, M.N. Evseev, E.V. Kharybin, 2012, published in Doklady Akademii Nauk, 2012, Vol. 447, No. 2, pp. 214216.


Evidence of Plumes in the Structure of Mantle Convection, Thermal Fields, and Mass Transport
Corresponding Member of the RAS V. P. Trubitsyn, A. N. Evseev,

M. N. Evseev, and E. V. Kharybin

Received June 6, 2012

DOI: 10.1134/S1028334X1211013X

A hypothesis and grounds supporting the existence of plumes in the mantle were put forward by Wilson in 1965 and then developed by Morgan in 1971. Later, thousands of papers about the properties of mantle plumes were published. At present, the action of plumes explains giant volcanic eruptions that generate active hot spots, large igneous provinces on the conti nents, and large basalt plateaus on the bottom of the oceans [1]. However, some geologists and geophysi cists consider that the concepts of plumes are based only on the interpretation of data on the processes on the surface, and in the absence of direct observations of plumes in the mantle, we need weighty proofs of the existence of plumes and the locations of their genera tion. A book dedicated to the results of a large interna tional conference [2] states that currently there are two opposing concepts of global geodynamics: plate tec tonics and plume tectonics. According to plate tecton ics, volcanoes are formed in the upper parts of the mantle when the lithospheric plates interact with the mantle currents. According to plume tectonics, volca noes are formed by mushroom like flows of the mantle matter that propagates from the bottom of the mantle. The problem of developing a common geodynamic theory of plates and plumes has been pressing for half a century since the time of the discovery of mantle convection and formulation of the theory of lithos pheric plates. The results of a direct numerical experiment describing the processes in matter with a viscid elastic rheology similar to that measured for olivine in a heated layer with the mantle parameters are presented in [3, 4]. It was shown that thermal convection appears in this layer. In the rheological conditions of dry oliv ine, the upper cold highly viscid layer remains all rigid in Mars and Venus. In the rheological conditions of wet olivine, the lithosphere is divided into individual

Schmidt Joint Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Bolshaya Gruzinskaya 10, Moscow, 123995 Russia e mail:

rigid plates submerging into the mantle. Owing to the high temperature difference, the convective jets ascending from the bottom of the mantle take the mushroom form of a plume. In this work, we present the results of further calcu lations of two dimensional models of convection in the mantle. We consider the model without taking into account the plasticity of the lithosphere but with the additional detailed elaboration of the geodynamic manifestation of plumes. We calculate the processes that appear in a layer with a size of 9000 3000 km with the mantle parameters, at which convection appears with the intensity characterized by the Ray leigh number equal to 5 107. Due to the dependence of viscosity on temperature, a cold layer of increased viscosity appears near the surface, which slows down the outcropping of the plumes to the surface. Owing to the phase transition of olivine to the perovskite phase, a boundary appears at a depth of 660 km, which sepa rates the upper mantle with a viscosity of 5 1020 Pa s from the lower mantle whose viscosity is 30 times greater; thus, it influences the structure of currents. Figure 1 shows the manifestation of plumes in dif ferent fields within the mantle and at the surface. The investigation of mantle plumes based on seismic tomography has already been carried out for a few decades. The descending lithospheric plates are a few hundred degrees cooler than the surrounding mantle. Therefore, they are clearly seen in the tomography of the upper mantle and can even be traced up to large depths in the lower mantle. The mantle plumes are warmer than the mantle by only 100200C; there fore, they are only partly distinguished by tomography. It is seen from Fig. 1 that the temperature field reflects the same pattern, in which the hot plumes are seen more poorly than the downwelling cold currents, and they can be traced generally only in the lower mantle. Plates and plumes are seen in the distribution of vis cosity owing to the temperature dependence of viscos ity. The plumes are seen more clearly in the distribu tion of the thermal flux within the mantle because the convective flux is determined by the product of tem perature and velocity, which are higher in the plumes.



Temperature 0 T, K 3000 2000 1000 3000 6000 Surface heat flux 9000 3000 km 0 h, km 1 0 1 2 3000 6000 Dynamic topography 1500



3000 km 0

log 22 21 20 19 18 9000

q, mW/m2 100 80 60 6000 q, mW/m2 150 100 50 1500 9000


0 3000 Heat fluxes in the mantle

0 3000 6000 9000 Markers transporting matter from the bottom of the mantle 0 C 1.0 0.5 0 3000 6000 9000 km



3000 km 0 3000 6000 9000 km

3000 km 0

The results of numerical modeling of convection that appears in the heated layer of viscid matter with the mean parameters of the mantle. The velocities of currents are shown with arrows with the maximum value equal to 20 cm/yr. The temperature, viscosity, heat flux, and concentration of the matter transported upwards by the plumes from the bot tom of the layer are shown with dark hues. The scales are shown on the right. The boundaries of the phase transitions at depths of 420 km, 660 km, and 2700 km are shown with the lines.

Vol. 447

Part 1




At the same time, this effect is less pronounced for the plates because the temperature of plates is lower, while the velocity of descending is high. Unlike the temper ature field, in which the plumes are seen clearly in the lower mantle, the plumes in the thermal flux field are seen better in the upper mantle, where the mass and heat transport velocity is high. The plumes are most clearly seen in the mass fluxes. The well known and widely used basic pro gramming code Citcom for numerical solution of con vection equations was supplemented with a module of calculations of matter motion based on the marker method, which are transported with the velocity of currents at a given place and time. Unlike the momen tary pattern of current velocity, the markers allow us to see the entire trajectory of the matter motion. It is seen from Fig. 1 that, in the conditions of intense convec tion and parameters of the modern mantle, plumes inevitably appear in the Earths mantle being gener ated at the bottom of the mantle. In this work we did not take into account the dependence of viscosity on the rate of deformation; therefore, the upper cold part of the mantle behaves as a continuous layer with high viscosity and does not separate into individual plates. In this work we also do not take into account the process of entrainment of plumes into the lithosphere with mechanical and ther mal destruction. This process has not been studied thus far. Therefore, in Fig. 1 the plumes spread under the lithosphere to a greater extent than in the real mantle. Thus, the model presented here demonstrates the manifestation of only those plumes that are located within the mantle and did not reach the surface. However, even these plumes contribute to the sur face heat flux and topography of the surface. It is seen in Fig. 1 that the heat flux and topography are greater over the places where the plumes approach the surface. Thus, we can make the following conclusions from the results of the numerical modeling of the mantle convection: (1) Plumes inevitably appear in the conditions of the Earths mantle. The processes of differentiation of the matter and possible anomalies of heat and mass exchange at the boundary with the core are not neces sary for the generation of plumes. (2) An anomalously hot boundary layer at the bot tom of the mantle is the main place of the generation of plumes. (3) In the conditions of the modern mantle, the plumes have a thin stem approximately 100 km thick and hats that reach the foot of the lithosphere with a size of thousands of kilometers. The appearance of the mushroom form of ascending mantle jets is caused by

the high intensity of convection, when the overheated light volume of matter at the hot bottom of the mantle flows rapidly upwards and separates from the other matter ascending in the form of a stem. An instability of the RayleighTaylor type appears when the viscos ity of the ascending matter is lower by two orders of magnitude. It leads to the form of the plume resem bling the one during an atomic explosion. When the plume enters the upper mantle, its velocity increases. The plumes sharply slow down at the foot of the highly viscid strong lithosphere, and their material spreads in the horizontal direction. Therefore, the hat can addi tionally widen several times. The first arrival of the mantle plume (hat) when it reaches the surface should manifest itself on the continent in the form of a large igneous province and on the bottom of the oceans as a large basalt plateau. Transport of the plume stem to the surface should lead to a long living (up to 100 my) hot spot, which leaves a trace in the form of a trajectory in the moving lithospheric plate. (4) Mantle plumes cannot pass free through the general currents in the mantle, but instead they induce these currents entraining the surrounding matter dur ing their ascent. The authors of [4] demonstrated that mantle currents in the upper mantle are induced by the descending lithospheric plates. Thus, if we take into account the phase transition with the density and viscosity interface at a depth of 660 km, we can condi tionally consider that the structure in the lower mantle is determined by the mantle plumes and that in the upper mantle is determined by the descending plates. Convection is developed in the entire mantle, but the currents with high velocities can concentrate in the upper mantle. Such a structure of the mantle convec tion provides global redistribution of the elements with the formation of geochemical reservoirs. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was supported by the Russian Founda tion for Basic Research, project nos. 11 05 00256 and 11 05 00262. REFERENCES
1. G. Schubert, D. L. Turcotte, and P. Olson, Mantle Con vection in the Earth and Planets (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001). 2. G. R. Foulger, Plates vs. Plumes: A Geological Contro versy (Wiley Blackwell, London, 2010). 3. V. P. Trubitsyn, Dokl. Akad. Nauk 434 (5), 681683 (2010) [Dokl. Earth Sci. 434 (2), 13701372 (2010)]. 4. V. P. Trubitsyn, Fiz. Zemli, No. 6, 322 (2012) [Izv. Phys. Solid Earth 48 (6), 467485, (2012)].

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