Superplume Formation Beneath An Ancient Slab.
Then graduate student Eh Tan, working with Michael Gurnis,
discovered a plausible mechanism of generating superplumes
at the core mantle boundary. This animation shows the evolution of
an ancient slab which is resting at the core mantle boundary
for millions of years. In this animation, the yellow to red regions
are hot (and have a low effective viscosity) while the blue region (the ancient
slab) is cold and has a high viscosity.
Tan and Gurnis have discovered that a cold slab, which is both negatively buoyant
and relatively strong, will tend to trap hot mantle beneath it. Notice how rapidly
plume formation occurs in the slab free regions. However, beneath the cold slab,
heat builds up for nearly 150 million years such that the plume which
finally 'erupts' below the slab is substantially larger than the
plumes which form from normal hot thermal boundary layers.
The box delineated by the black lines shows the region within which we integrate
the negative bouyancy of the slab and the buoyancy of the developing plume.
Watch the evolution of the buoyancy within the slab (blue) and that within
the plume (red) in the evolving diagram above the convection picture.
To view our animation again, press here.
A detailed description of our work appeared in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems and you can obtain a PDF reprint here.
Additional references of related material can be found here.
Updated January 3, 2012
Copyright © 2004-2012 California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena, California 91125, USA