The influence of deep mantle compositional heterogeneity on Earth's thermal evolution

Mingming Li, Allen K. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The seismically-observed large low shear velocity provinces in the Earth's lowermost mantle have been hypothesized to be caused by thermochemical piles of compositionally distinct, more-primitive material which may be remnants of Earth's early differentiation. However, one critical question is how the Earth's thermal evolution is affected by the long-term presence of the large-scale compositional heterogeneity in the lowermost mantle. Here, we perform geodynamical calculations to investigate the time evolution of the morphology of large-scale compositional heterogeneity and its influence on the Earth's long-term thermal evolution. Our results show that a global layer of intrinsically dense material in the lowermost mantle significantly suppresses the CMB heat flux, which leads to faster cooling of the background mantle relative to an isochemical mantle. As the background mantle cools, the intrinsically dense material is gradually pushed into isolated thermochemical piles by cold downwellings. The size of the piles also decreases with time due to entraining of pile material into the background mantle. The morphologic change of the accumulations of intrinsic dense material eventually causes a gradual increase of CMB heat flux, which significantly reduces the cooling rate of Earth's mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-96
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Oct 15 2018


  • compositional heterogeneity
  • lowermost mantle
  • thermal evolution
  • thermochemical piles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'The influence of deep mantle compositional heterogeneity on Earth's thermal evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this