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Morgan J.P.,Royal Holloway, University of London | Morgan J.P.,Cornell University | Hasenclever J.,Hamburg Institute of Geophysics | Hasenclever J.,Leibniz Institute of Marine Science | And 2 more authors.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters | Year: 2013

The textbook view is that the asthenosphere is the place beneath the tectonic plates where competing temperature and pressure effects on mantle rheology result in the lowest viscosity region of Earth's mantle. We think the sub-oceanic asthenosphere exists for a different reason, that instead it is where rising plumes of hot mantle stall and spread out beneath the strong tectonic plates. Below this plume-fed asthenosphere is a thermal and density inversion with cooler underlying average-temperature mantle. Here we show several recent seismic studies that are consistent with a plume-fed asthenosphere. These include the seismic inferences that asthenosphere appears to resist being dragged down at subduction zones, that a sub-oceanic thermal inversion ~250-350. km deep is needed to explain the seismic velocity gradient there for an isochemical mantle, that a fast 'halo' of shear-wave travel-times surrounds the Hawaiian plume conduit, and that an apparent seismic reflector is found ~300. km beneath Pacific seafloor near Hawaii. We also present 2D axisymmetric and 3D numerical experiments that demonstrate these effects in internally consistent models with a plume-fed asthenosphere. If confirmed, the existence of a plume-fed asthenosphere will change our understanding of the dynamics of mantle convection and melting, and the links between surface plate motions and mantle convection. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

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