Research ArticleGEOLOGY

A nearly water-saturated mantle transition zone inferred from mineral viscosity

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Science Advances  07 Jun 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 6, e1603024
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1603024

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Abstract

An open question for solid-earth scientists is the amount of water in Earth’s interior. The uppermost mantle and lower mantle contain little water because their dominant minerals, olivine and bridgmanite, have limited water storage capacity. In contrast, the mantle transition zone (MTZ) at a depth of 410 to 660 km is considered to be a potential water reservoir because its dominant minerals, wadsleyite and ringwoodite, can contain large amounts of water [up to 3 weight % (wt %)]. However, the actual amount of water in the MTZ is unknown. Given that water incorporated into mantle minerals can lower their viscosity, we evaluate the water content of the MTZ by measuring dislocation mobility, a property that is inversely proportional to viscosity, as a function of temperature and water content in ringwoodite and bridgmanite. We find that dislocation mobility in bridgmanite is faster by two orders of magnitude than in anhydrous ringwoodite but 1.5 orders of magnitude slower than in water-saturated ringwoodite. To fit the observed mantle viscosity profiles, ringwoodite in the MTZ should contain 1 to 2 wt % water. The MTZ should thus be nearly water-saturated globally.

Keywords
  • dislocation mobility
  • Viscosity
  • ringwoodite
  • bridgmanite
  • Water
  • mantle transition zone
  • lower mantle

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