On the self-regulating effect of grain size evolution in mantle convection models: application to thermochemical piles

Schierjott, Jana; Rozel, Antoine; Tackley, Paul

Seismic studies show two antipodal regions of lower shear velocity at the core–mantle boundary (CMB) called large low-shear-velocity provinces (LLSVPs). They are thought to be thermally and chemically distinct and therefore might have a different density and viscosity than the ambient mantle. Employing a composite rheology, using both diffusion and dislocation creep, we investigate the influence of grain size evolution on the dynamics of thermochemical piles in evolutionary geodynamic models. We consider a primordial layer and a time-dependent basalt production at the surface to dynamically form the present-day chemical heterogeneities, similar to earlier studies, e.g. by citxref_text.1#bib1.bibx42Nakagawa and Tackley (#bib1.bibx422014).

Our results show that, relative to the ambient mantle, grain size is higher inside the piles, but, due to the high temperature at the CMB, the viscosity is not remarkably different from ambient mantle viscosity. We further find that although the average viscosity of the detected piles is buffered by both grain size and temperature, the viscosity is influenced predominantly by grain size. In the ambient mantle, however, depending on the convection regime, viscosity can also be predominantly controlled by temperature.

All pile properties, except for temperature, show a self-regulating behaviour: although grain size and viscosity decrease when downwellings or overturns occur, these properties quickly recover and return to values prior to the downwelling. We compute the necessary recovery time and find that it takes approximately 400 Myr for the properties to recover after a resurfacing event. Extrapolating to Earth values, we estimate a much smaller recovery time.

We observe that dynamic recrystallisation counteracts grain growth inside the piles when downwellings form. Venus-type resurfacing episodes reduce the grain size in piles and ambient mantle to a few millimetres. More continuous mobile-lid-type downwellings limit the grain size to a centimetre. Consequently, we find that grain-size-dependent viscosity does not increase the resistance of thermochemical piles to downgoing slabs. Mostly, piles deform in grain-size-sensitive diffusion creep, but they are not stiff enough to counteract the force of downwellings. Hence, we conclude that the location of subduction zones could be responsible for the location and stability of the thermochemical piles of the Earth because of dynamic recrystallisation.



Schierjott, Jana / Rozel, Antoine / Tackley, Paul: On the self-regulating effect of grain size evolution in mantle convection models: application to thermochemical piles. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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