Linking lowermost mantle structure, core-mantle boundary heat flux and mantle plume formation

Mingming Li, Shijie Zhong, Peter Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The dynamics of Earth's lowermost mantle exert significant control on the formation of mantle plumes and the core-mantle boundary (CMB) heat flux. However, it is not clear if and how the variation of CMB heat flux and mantle plume activity are related. Here, we perform geodynamic model experiments that show how temporal variations in CMB heat flux and pulses of mantle plumes are related to morphologic changes of the thermochemical piles of large-scale compositional heterogeneities in Earth's lowermost mantle, represented by the large low shear velocity provinces (LLSVPs). We find good correlation between the morphologic changes of the thermochemical piles and the time variation of CMB heat flux. The morphology of the thermochemical piles is significantly altered during the initiation and ascent of strong mantle plumes, and the changes in pile morphology cause variations in the local and the total CMB heat flux. Our modeling results indicate that plume-induced episodic variations of CMB heat flux link geomagnetic superchrons to pulses of surface volcanism, although the relative timing of these two phenomena remains problematic. We also find that the density distribution in thermochemical piles is heterogeneous, and that the piles are denser on average than the surrounding mantle when both thermal and chemical effects are included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-29
Number of pages20
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • CMB heat flux
  • Geomagnetic superchrons
  • Large igneous provinces
  • Mantle plume
  • Thermochemical piles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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