Thermochemical flows couple the Earth's inner core growth to mantle heterogeneity

Research areas:
Year:
2008
Authors:
  • Julien Aubert
  • Hagay Amit
  • Gauthier Hulot
  • Peter Olson
Journal:
NATURE
Volume:
454
Number:
7205
Pages:
758-U80
Month:
AUG 7
ISSN:
0028-0836
BibTex:
Abstract:
Seismic waves sampling the top 100 km of the Earth's inner core reveal that the eastern hemisphere (40 degrees E-180 degrees E) is seismically faster(1,2), more isotropic(2,3) and more attenuating(4) than the western hemisphere. The origin of this hemispherical dichotomy is a challenging problem for our understanding of the Earth as a system of dynamically coupled layers. Previously, laboratory experiments have established that thermal control from the lower mantle can drastically affect fluid flow in the outer core(5), which in turn can induce textural heterogeneity on the inner core solidification front(6). The resulting texture should be consistent with other expected manifestations of thermal mantle control on the geodynamo, specifically magnetic flux concentrations(7,8) in the timeaverage palaeomagnetic field(9,10) over the past 5 Myr, and preferred eddy locations(11) in flows imaged below the core-mantle boundary by the analysis of historical geomagnetic secular variation(12). Here we show that a single model of thermochemical convection and dynamo action can account for all these effects by producing a large-scale, long-term outer core flow that couples the heterogeneity of the inner core with that of the lower mantle. The main feature of this thermochemical 'wind' is a cyclonic circulation below Asia, which concentrates magnetic field on the core-mantle boundary at the observed location and locally agrees with core flow images. This wind also causes anomalously high rates of light element release in the eastern hemisphere of the inner core boundary, suggesting that lateral seismic anomalies at the top of the inner core result from mantle-induced variations in its freezing rate.