The relationships between large-scale variations in shear velocity, density, and compressional velocity in the Earth's mantle

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Journal Article

A large data set of surface wave phase anomalies, body wave travel times, normal-mode splitting functions, and long-period waveforms is used to investigate the scaling between shear velocity, density, and compressional velocity in the Earth s mantle. We introduce a methodology that allows construction of joint models with various levels of scaling complexity, in order to detect seismological signatures of chemical heterogeneity. We demonstrate that the data sets considered cannot be fit concurrently with a uniform or a positive and uniform throughout the mantle. The variance reductions to P wave travel times and vP-sensitive modes are up to 40% higher with our preferred model of anisotropic shear and compressional velocity than the recent anisotropic shear velocity model S362ANI+M, which was constructed assuming a uniform ν throughout the mantle. Several features reported in earlier tomographic studies persist after the inclusion of new and larger data sets; anticorrelation between bulk sound and shear velocities in the lowermost mantle as well as an increase in ν with depth in the lower mantle are largely independent of the regularization scheme. When correlations between density and shear velocity variations are imposed in the lowermost mantle, variance reductions of several spheroidal and toroidal modes deteriorate by as much as 40%. Recent measurements of the splitting of 0S2, in particular, are largely incompatible with perfectly correlated shear velocity and density heterogeneity throughout the mantle. A way to significantly improve the fits to various data sets is by allowing independent density perturbations in the lowermost mantle. Our preferred joint model consists of denser-than-average anomalies (<1% peak to peak) at the base of the mantle roughly coincident with the low-velocity superplumes. The relative variation of shear velocity, density, and compressional velocity in our study disfavors a purely thermal contribution to heterogeneity in the lowermost mantle, with implications for the long-term stability and evolution of superplumes.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth