Multiscale seismic tomography and mantle dynamics

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174 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we first introduce the methodology of multiscale seismic tomography and the way to interpret the obtained tomographic images, and then review the significant recent results of multiscale seismic tomography with emphasis on mantle plumes and subducting slabs. Global and regional tomography shows that most of the slab materials under Western Pacific and East Asia are stagnant in the mantle transition zone before finally collapsing down to the core-mantle boundary as a result of large gravitational instability from phase transitions. Local and teleseismic tomography studies have imaged clearly the subducting slabs and arc magma chambers in the upper-mantle wedge, indicating that geodynamic systems associated with arc magmatism and back-arc spreading are related to deep processes, such as convective circulation in the mantle wedge and dehydration reactions of the subducting slab. Because most hotspots are located in poorly instrumented continental and oceanic regions, 3-D crust and upper-mantle structure is determined for only a few hotspots such as Iceland, Yellowstone and Eifel which are covered by seismic networks, and plume-like slow anomalies are revealed under those hotspots. Global tomography has revealed deep mantle plumes under the major hotspots such as Hawaii, Iceland, Kerguelen, South Pacific and Africa. Strong lateral heterogeneities are revealed at the bottom of the mantle, which are associated with the deeply subducted slabs and the birth of mantle plumes. A thorough understanding of the deep Earth structure will only be achieved by a combination of more effective seismic imaging techniques and dense coverage of global seismic networks, particularly in the oceans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-323
Number of pages27
JournalGondwana Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun


  • East Asia
  • Hotspots
  • Mantle plumes
  • Multiscale tomography
  • Subducting slabs
  • Superplumes
  • The core-mantle boundary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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