Core-mantle boundary structures and processes

Thorne Lay, Edward Garnero

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

71 Scopus citations


Seismological and geodynamical observations have established the presence of a major thermo-chemical boundary layer (TCBL) in the lowermost mantle. This boundary layer plays a critical role in regulating heat flow through the core-mantle boundary, thereby influencing the dynamo-generating core flow regime. It also plays an important role in the mantle convection system, possibly serving as a source of boundary-layer instabilities and as a reservoir for long-lived geochemical heterogeneities. Two end-member conceptual models for the TCBL have emerged, both reconcilable with current observational constraints: a global, stably-stratified, chemically distinct layer may exist in the lowermost 250 km of the mantle (the global TCBL model), or this region may be a partially mixed boundary layer involving a composite of downwelling thermo-chemical anomalies such as oceanic lithospheric slabs or eclogitic oceanic crustal components and ancient dense chemical anomalies dynamically concentrated into large agglomerations beneath upwellings (the hybrid TCBL model). For the global TCBL model, laterally varying partial melt fractions within the layer are required to account for various seismological observations, and large dynamic topography on the upper boundary of this layer is expected: there is evidence for both of these attributes of the TCBL. The hybrid TCBL model requires additional complexity such as a phase transition or structural fabric transition to account for various seismological observations: some mineralogical candidates have been proposed. The outstanding challenge, requiring multi-disciplinary advances, is to discriminate between these competing conceptual models, as they differ in implications for thermal history, chemical processing, and dynamical behavior of the TCBL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe State of the Planet
Subtitle of host publicationFrontiers and Challenges in Geophysics, 2004
EditorsC.J. Hawkesworth, R.S.J. Sparks
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781118666012
ISBN (Print)9780875904153
StatePublished - 2004

Publication series

NameGeophysical Monograph Series
ISSN (Print)0065-8448
ISSN (Electronic)2328-8779

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


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