Large cold anomalies in the deep mantle and mantle instability in the Cretaceous

David A. Yuen , Ondrej Cadek , R. Boehler , J. Moser & Ctirad Matyska


Two large cold masses in the deep mantle have been delineated by using long-wavelength seismic tomographic models in conjuction with mineralogical experimental data at high pressure. These cold anomalies are found under the western Pacific and the Americas with temperature more than 1000 degrees below the ambient mantle temperature. These strong cold anomalies existing in the lower mantle today would suggest that there might have existed not too long ago a substantial temperature jump across a thermal boundary layer between the upper and lower mantle. Numerical simulations in an axisymmetric spherical-shell model incorporating the two major phase transitions have shown that very large pools of cold material with temperatures of around 1500 K can be flushed down to the core-mantle boundary during this tumultuous gravitational instability. A correlation is found between the current locations of these very cold masses and regions of past subduction since the Cretaceous. Correlation analysis shows that the slab mass-flux into the lower mantle does not behave in a steady-state fashion. These findings may support the idea of a strong gravitational instability with origins in the transition zone, as suggested by nymerical models of mantle convection.

Terra Nova, 6 (1994), 238-245.