Structures of the oceanic lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary: Mineral-physics modeling and seismological signatures



[1] We explore possible models for the seismological signature of the oceanic lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB) using the latest mineral-physics observations. The key features that need to be explained by any viable model include (1) a sharp (<20 km width) and a large (5–10%) velocity drop, (2) LAB depth at ~70 km in the old oceanic upper mantle, and (3) an age-dependent LAB depth in the young oceanic upper mantle. We examine the plausibility of both partial melt and sub-solidus models. Because many of the LAB observations in the old oceanic regions are located in areas where temperature is ~1000–1200°K, significant partial melting is difficult. We examine a layered model and a melt-accumulation model (at the LAB) and show that both models are difficult to reconcile with seismological observations. A sub-solidus model assuming absorption-band (AB) physical dispersion is inconsistent with the large velocity drop at the LAB. We explore a new sub-solidus model, originally proposed by Karato [2012], that depends on grain-boundary sliding. In contrast to the previous model where only the AB behavior was assumed, the new model predicts an age-dependent LAB structure including the age-dependent LAB depth and its sharpness. Strategies to test these models are presented.