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Three-dimensional models of mantle convection : influence of phase transitions and temperature-dependent viscosity


Tackley, Paul James (1994) Three-dimensional models of mantle convection : influence of phase transitions and temperature-dependent viscosity. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/541t-s191.


Two of the most important questions in mantle dynamics are investigated in three separate studies: the influence of phase transitions (studies 1 and 2), and the influence of temperature-dependent viscosity (study 3).

(1) Numerical modeling of mantle convection in a three-dimensional spherical shell incorporating the two major mantle phase transitions reveals an inherently three-dimensional flow pattern characterized by accumulation of cold downwellings above the 670 km discontinuity, and cylindrical 'avalanches' of upper mantle material into the lower mantle. The exothermic phase transition at 400 km depth reduces the degree of layering. A region of strongly-depressed temperature occurs at the base of the mantle. The temperature field is strongly modulated by this partial layering, both locally and in globally-averaged diagnostics. Flow penetration is strongly wavelength-dependent, with easy penetration at long wavelengths but strong inhibition at short wavelengths. The amplitude of the geoid is not significantly affected.

(2) Using a simple criterion for the deflection of an upwelling or downwelling by an endothermic phase transition, the scaling of the critical phase buoyancy parameter with the important lengthscales is obtained. The derived trends match those observed in numerical simulations, i.e., deflection is enhanced by (a) shorter wavelengths, (b) narrower up/downwellings (c) internal heating and (d) narrower phase loops.

(3) A systematic investigation into the effects of temperature-dependent viscosity on mantle convection has been performed in three-dimensional Cartesian geometry, with a factor of 1000-2500 viscosity variation, and Rayleigh numbers of 10^5-10^7. Enormous differences in model behavior are found, depending on the details of rheology, heating mode, compressibility and boundary conditions. Stress-free boundaries, compressibility, and temperature-dependent viscosity all favor long-wavelength flows, even in internally heated cases. However, small cells are obtained with some parameter combinations. Downwelling plumes and upwelling sheets are possible when viscosity is dependent solely on temperature. Viscous dissipation becomes important with temperature-dependent viscosity.

The sensitivity of mantle flow and structure to these various complexities illustrates the importance of performing mantle convection calculations with rheological and thermodynamic properties matching as closely as possible those of the Earth.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Stevenson, David John
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:17 May 1994
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05222013-080427740
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7738
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:22 May 2013 16:15
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

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