Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Can a sheet-like low-velocity region form an elongated Large Igneous Province?



[1] High-resolution tomography of the lower mantle has revealed the existence of another chemically distinct region with low-velocity and a sheet-like structure beneath the western Pacific. On the other hand, Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) sometimes have elongated shapes. If a sheet-like upwelling reaches the Earth's surface while maintaining its shape, an elongated LIP may form. In order to test this hypothesis, we perform a series of experiments and investigate the stability of a buoyant sheet. The experimental results show that the buoyant fluid accumulates at the top of the sheet to form a buoyant cylinder. The gravitational instability divides the cylinder into several plume heads. We develop a model to explain the growth of the buoyant cylinder and the time scale until instability begins. Our model shows that a thin sheet-like upwelling with a width of 200 km, a small density difference from the ambient mantle, 10 kg m−3, and a high supply rate of buoyant fluid, 0.1 m yr−1, can reach the Earth's surface while maintaining its shape. We thus infer that LIPs with an elongated shape can be generated by sheet-like upwellings. The width of the observed sheet-like low-velocity region beneath the western Pacific is 500 km and is marginally sufficient to form an elongated LIP.