Evolving morphology of crustal accumulations in Earth's lowermost mantle

Mingming Li, Allen K. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Subducted oceanic crust is one of the major sources of compositional heterogeneity in Earth's mantle. It has been proposed that subducted oceanic crust may accumulate at the bottom of the Earth's mantle and cause the seismically-observed, Large Low Shear Velocity Provinces (LLSVPs). Testing this hypothesis requires a better understanding of the morphology of the crustal accumulations in the lowermost mantle. Here, through geodynamic modeling experiments, we find that thick subducted oceanic crust could accumulate into thermochemical piles with a height up to ∼1000 km above the core-mantle boundary (CMB), and the crustal accumulations typically have chemically fuzzy top boundaries and stratified interiors. As the oceanic crust thins with mantle cooling, it becomes more difficult to accumulate on the CMB, and the previous crustal accumulations gradually become smaller in size and gain sharp top boundaries and relatively homogeneous interiors. Our results suggest that if the present-day LLSVPs are mainly caused by the accumulations of subducted oceanic crust, they may be produced in the early hotter Earth when subducted oceanic crust may be thicker, and they may start with chemically fuzzy top boundaries and stratified interiors and gradually develop into chemically sharper top boundaries and more homogenized interiors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117265
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • LLSVPs
  • lowermost mantle
  • morphology
  • oceanic crust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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