Major and trace element composition of the high 3He/4He mantle: Implications for the composition of a nonchonditic Earth

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Abstract

[1] The bulk composition of the silicate portion of the Earth (BSE) has long been assumed to be tied to chondrites, in which refractory, lithophile elements like Sm and Nd exist in chondritic relative abundances. However, the 142Nd/144Nd ratios of modern terrestrial samples are 18 ± 5 ppm higher than the ordinary-chondrite reservoir, and this challenges the traditional BSE model. Here we investigate a hypothesis that this terrestrial 142Nd excess is related to a Sm/Nd ratio 6% higher than chondritic. This Sm/Nd ratio yields a superchondritic 143Nd/144Nd (∼0.5130) similar to that identified in the highest 3He/4He mantle reservoir, and we argue that this reservoir represents the BSE composition for lithophile elements. We develop a compositional model for BSE in which the elevated Sm/Nd requires a shift of 143Nd/144Nd from 0.51263 (chondritic) to 0.51300. The new BSE composition is depleted in highly incompatible elements, including K, relative to the chondrite-based BSE, and offers a solution the “missing” 40Ar paradox. This BSE compositional model requires that >83% of the mantle is depleted to form continental crust. It also implies a ∼30% reduction in BSE U, Th and K, and therefore in the current rate of radiogenic heating and, thus, a proportional increase in the heat flow delivered to surface by plate tectonics. We explore thermal history models including effects related to a newly recognized evolution in the style of plate tectonics over Earth history: The lower radiogenic heat production may delay the onset of core convection and dynamo action to as late as 3.5 Gyr.

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