Multiple seismic discontinuities near the base of the transition zone in the Earth's mantle

N. A. Simmons, H. Gurrola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations

Abstract

The seismologically defined boundary between the transition zone in the Earth's mantle (410-660 km depth) and the underlying lower mantle is generally interpreted to result from the breakdown of the γ-spinel phase of olivine to magnesiumperovskite and magnesiowustite. Laboratory measurements of these transformations of olivine have determined that the phase boundary has a negative Clapeyron slope and does indeed occur near pressures corresponding to the base of the transition zone. But a computational study has indicated that, because of the presence of garnet minerals, multiple seismic discontinuities might exist near a depth of 660 km (ref. 4), which would alter the simple negative correlation of changes in temperature with changes in the depth of the phase boundary. In particular, garnet minerals undergo exothermic transformations near this depth, acting to complicate the phase relations and possibly effecting mantle convection processes in some regions. Here we present seismic evidence that supports the existence of such multiple transitions near a depth of 660 km beneath southern California. The observations are consistent with having been generated by garnet transformations coupling with the dissociation of the γ-spinel phase of olivine. Temperature anomalies calculated from the imaged discontinuity depths-using Clapeyron slopes determined for the various transformations-generally match those predicted from an independent P-wave velocity model of the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-562
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume405
Issue number6786
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000

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