Origins of ultralow velocity zones through slab-derived metallic melt Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/7819-1585-4353-4416-CC

is Contribution to the DCO

  • YES

year of publication

  • 2016


  • Understanding the ultralow velocity zones (ULVZs) places constraints on the chemical composition and thermal structure of deep Earth and provides critical information on the dynamics of large-scale mantle convection, but their origin has remained enigmatic for decades. Recent studies suggest that metallic iron and carbon are produced in subducted slabs when they sink beyond a depth of 250 km. Here we show that the eutectic melting curve of the iron−carbon system crosses the current geotherm near Earth’s core−mantle boundary, suggesting that dense metallic melt may form in the lowermost mantle. If concentrated into isolated patches, such melt could produce the seismically observed density and velocity features of ULVZs. Depending on the wetting behavior of the metallic melt, the resultant ULVZs may be short-lived domains that are replenished or regenerated through subduction, or long-lasting regions containing both metallic and silicate melts. Slab-derived metallic melt may produce another type of ULVZ that escapes core sequestration by reacting with the mantle to form iron-rich postbridgmanite or ferropericlase. The hypotheses connect peculiar features near Earth's core−mantle boundary to subduction of the oceanic lithosphere through the deep carbon cycle.


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