Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Mantle


Every second greater than 10(25) antineutrinos radiate to space from Earth, shining like a faint antineutrino star. Underground antineutrino detectors have revealed the rapidly decaying fission products inside nuclear reactors, verified the long-lived radioactivity inside our planet, and informed sensitive experiments for probing fundamental physics. Mapping the anisotropic antineutrino flux and energy spectrum advance geoscience by defining the amount and distribution of radioactive power within Earth while critically evaluating competing compositional models of the planet. We present the Antineutrino Global Map 2015 (AGM2015), an experimentally informed model of Earth’s surface antineutrino flux over the 0 to 11 MeV energy spectrum, along with an assessment of systematic errors. The open source AGM2015 provides fundamental predictions for experiments, assists in strategic detector placement to determine neutrino mass hierarchy, and aids in identifying undeclared nuclear reactors. We use cosmochemically and seismologically informed models of the radiogenic lithosphere/mantle combined with the estimated antineutrino flux, as measured by KamLAND and Borexino, to determine the Earth’s total antineutrino luminosity at . We find a dominant flux of geo-neutrinos, predict sub-equal crust and mantle contributions, with ~1% of the total flux from man-made nuclear reactors.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Radioactive decay, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Neutrino, Mantle, Crust


The notion of self-regulating mantle convection, in which heat loss from the surface is constantly adjusted to follow internal radiogenic heat production, has been popular for the past six decades since Urey first advocated the idea. Thanks to its intuitive appeal, this notion has pervaded the solid earth sciences in various forms, but approach to a self-regulating state critically depends on the relation between the thermal adjustment rate and mantle temperature. I show that, if the effect of mantle melting on viscosity is taken into account, the adjustment rate cannot be sufficiently high to achieve self-regulation, regardless of the style of mantle convection. The evolution of terrestrial planets is thus likely to be far from thermal equilibrium and be sensitive to the peculiarities of their formation histories. Chance factors in planetary formation are suggested to become more important for the evolution of planets that are more massive than Earth.

Concepts: Earth, Temperature, Planet, Thermodynamics, Heat, Convection, Terrestrial planet, Mantle


The Earth’s engine is driven by unknown proportions of primordial energy and heat produced in radioactive decay. Unfortunately, competing models of Earth’s composition reveal an order of magnitude uncertainty in the amount of radiogenic power driving mantle dynamics. Recent measurements of the Earth’s flux of geoneutrinos, electron antineutrinos from terrestrial natural radioactivity, reveal the amount of uranium and thorium in the Earth and set limits on the residual proportion of primordial energy. Comparison of the flux measured at large underground neutrino experiments with geologically informed predictions of geoneutrino emission from the crust provide the critical test needed to define the mantle’s radiogenic power. Measurement at an oceanic location, distant from nuclear reactors and continental crust, would best reveal the mantle flux, however, no such experiment is anticipated. We predict the geoneutrino flux at the site of the Jinping Neutrino Experiment (Sichuan, China). Within 8 years, the combination of existing data and measurements from soon to come experiments, including Jinping, will exclude end-member models at the 1σ level, define the mantle’s radiogenic contribution to the surface heat loss, set limits on the composition of the silicate Earth, and provide significant parameter bounds for models defining the mode of mantle convection.

Concepts: Earth, Radioactive decay, Uranium, Neutrino, Mantle, Crust, Structure of the Earth, Subduction


The hydrogen-isotope [deuterium/hydrogen (D/H)] ratio of Earth can be used to constrain the origin of its water. However, the most accessible reservoir, Earth’s oceans, may no longer represent the original (primordial) D/H ratio, owing to changes caused by water cycling between the surface and the interior. Thus, a reservoir completely isolated from surface processes is required to define Earth’s original D/H signature. Here we present data for Baffin Island and Icelandic lavas, which suggest that the deep mantle has a low D/H ratio (δD more negative than -218 per mil). Such strongly negative values indicate the existence of a component within Earth’s interior that inherited its D/H ratio directly from the protosolar nebula.

Concepts: Lithosphere, 2000s music groups, 2006 albums, Ocean, Mantle, Crust, Structure of the Earth, Mesosphere


Earth’s core is structured in a solid inner core, mainly composed of iron, and a liquid outer core. The temperature at the inner core boundary is expected to be close to the melting point of iron at 330 gigapascal (GPa). Despite intensive experimental and theoretical efforts, there is little consensus on the melting behavior of iron at these extreme pressures and temperatures. We present static laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments up to 200 GPa using synchrotron-based fast x-ray diffraction as a primary melting diagnostic. When extrapolating to higher pressures, we conclude that the melting temperature of iron at the inner core boundary is 6230 ± 500 kelvin. This estimation favors a high heat flux at the core-mantle boundary with a possible partial melting of the mantle.

Concepts: Earth, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Liquid, Mantle, Structure of the Earth, Outer core, Inner core


The physical and chemical properties of Earth’s mantle, as well as its dynamics and evolution, heavily depend on the phase composition of the region. On the basis of experiments in laser-heated diamond anvil cells, we demonstrate that Fe,Al-bearing bridgmanite (magnesium silicate perovskite) is stable to pressures over 120 GPa and temperatures above 3000 K. Ferric iron stabilizes Fe-rich bridgmanite such that we were able to synthesize pure iron bridgmanite at pressures between ~45 and 110 GPa. The compressibility of ferric iron-bearing bridgmanite is significantly different from any known bridgmanite, which has direct implications for the interpretation of seismic tomography data.

Concepts: Iron, Earth, Mineral, Mantle, Crust, Structure of the Earth, Olivine, Planetary differentiation


Convergent margin volcanism is ultimately fed by magmas generated in the mantle, but the connection between the mantle and the eruption at the surface is typically obscured by cooling, crystallization and magma mixing within the crust. Geophysical techniques are also not very effective in the lower and middle crust, where seismic events are rare and resolution is generally poor. It has thus been unclear how fast mantle-derived magmas transit the crust and recharge crustal magma chambers. Here we use diffusion modelling of nickel zonation profiles in primitive olivines from diverse primary melts to show how mantle recharge may occur on timescales as short as eruptions themselves. In Irazú volcano in Costa Rica, magmas apparently ascend from their source region in the mantle through crust about 35 kilometres thick in just months to years, recharging hybrid basaltic andesites over the course of the eruption. These results show that large stratovolcanoes with shallow magma chambers may still preserve the deep record of their mantle origin in olivine crystals. This approach–documenting magma ascent timescales from the mantle beneath a convergent margin stratovolcano–can be applied to other eruptions that record magma mixing with recharge melts. Signs of volcanic unrest are typically monitored at the surface or upper crust; new efforts should look deeper, tracking magma movement from the base of the crust to the surface in the months to years before eruptions.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Mantle, Olivine, Lava, Mantle plume


The high water storage capacity of minerals in Earth’s mantle transition zone (410- to 660-kilometer depth) implies the possibility of a deep H2O reservoir, which could cause dehydration melting of vertically flowing mantle. We examined the effects of downwelling from the transition zone into the lower mantle with high-pressure laboratory experiments, numerical modeling, and seismic P-to-S conversions recorded by a dense seismic array in North America. In experiments, the transition of hydrous ringwoodite to perovskite and (Mg,Fe)O produces intergranular melt. Detections of abrupt decreases in seismic velocity where downwelling mantle is inferred are consistent with partial melt below 660 kilometers. These results suggest hydration of a large region of the transition zone and that dehydration melting may act to trap H2O in the transition zone.

Concepts: Earth, Experiment, North America, Mantle, Crust, Olivine, Wadsleyite, Andrija Mohorovi ić


The ultimate origin of water in the Earth’s hydrosphere is in the deep Earth–the mantle. Theory and experiments have shown that although the water storage capacity of olivine-dominated shallow mantle is limited, the Earth’s transition zone, at depths between 410 and 660 kilometres, could be a major repository for water, owing to the ability of the higher-pressure polymorphs of olivine–wadsleyite and ringwoodite–to host enough water to comprise up to around 2.5 per cent of their weight. A hydrous transition zone may have a key role in terrestrial magmatism and plate tectonics, yet despite experimental demonstration of the water-bearing capacity of these phases, geophysical probes such as electrical conductivity have provided conflicting results, and the issue of whether the transition zone contains abundant water remains highly controversial. Here we report X-ray diffraction, Raman and infrared spectroscopic data that provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence for the terrestrial occurrence of any higher-pressure polymorph of olivine: we find ringwoodite included in a diamond from Juína, Brazil. The water-rich nature of this inclusion, indicated by infrared absorption, along with the preservation of the ringwoodite, is direct evidence that, at least locally, the transition zone is hydrous, to about 1 weight per cent. The finding also indicates that some kimberlites must have their primary sources in this deep mantle region.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Volcano, Terrestrial planet, Mantle, Olivine


The strength of olivine at low temperatures and high stresses in Earth’s lithospheric mantle exerts a critical control on many geodynamic processes, including lithospheric flexure and the formation of plate boundaries. Unfortunately, laboratory-derived values of the strength of olivine at lithospheric conditions are highly variable and significantly disagree with those inferred from geophysical observations. We demonstrate via nanoindentation that the strength of olivine depends on the length scale of deformation, with experiments on smaller volumes of material exhibiting larger yield stresses. This “size effect” resolves discrepancies among previous measurements of olivine strength using other techniques. It also corroborates the most recent flow law for olivine, which proposes a much weaker lithospheric mantle than previously estimated, thus bringing experimental measurements into closer alignment with geophysical constraints. Further implications include an increased difficulty of activating plasticity in cold, fine-grained shear zones and an impact on the evolution of fault surface roughness due to the size-dependent deformation of nanometer- to micrometer-sized asperities.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Materials science, Solid mechanics, Deformation, Mantle, Asthenosphere