Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Elastic properties of silicate melts: Implications for low velocity zones at the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary

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Science Advances  13 Dec 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 12, e1701312
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701312

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Low seismic velocity regions in the mantle and crust are commonly attributed to the presence of silicate melts. Determining melt volume and geometric distribution is fundamental to understanding planetary dynamics. We present a new model for seismic velocity reductions that accounts for the anomalous compressibility of silicate melt, rendering compressional wave velocities more sensitive to melt fraction and distribution than previous estimates. Forward modeling predicts comparable velocity reductions for compressional and shear waves for partially molten mantle, and for low velocity regions associated with the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB), melt present at <5% distributed in near-textural equilibrium. These findings reconcile seismic observations for the LAB regionally and locally and favor models of strong coupling across the LAB rather than melt channeling due to shear deformation.

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