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Kilometer-scale structure on the core–mantle boundary near Hawaii

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Leng, Kuangdai 
Jenkins, Jennifer 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pThe lowermost mantle right above the core-mantle boundary is highly heterogeneous containing multiple poorly understood seismic features visible across a wide range of length scales. The smallest but most extreme heterogeneities yet observed are 'Ultra-Low Velocity Zones' (ULVZ), several of which have recently been linked to the base of mantle plumes. We exploit seismic shear waves that diffract along the core-mantle boundary to provide new insight into these enigmatic structures. We demonstrate that these waves have a strong frequency-dependent sensitivity to structure at different length scales above the core-mantle boundary. We measure a rare core-diffracted signal refracted by a ULVZ at the base of the Hawaiian mantle plume at unprecedentedly high frequencies. This signal shows remarkably longer time delays at higher compared to lower frequencies, indicating extreme internal variability within the Hawaiian ULVZ. Utilizing the latest computational advances in 3D synthetic waveform modeling, we are able to model this high frequency signal and constrain high-resolution structure on the scale of kilometers at the core-mantle boundary, for the first time. Results reveal that the lowermost part of the Hawaiian ULVZ is extremely reduced in shear wave velocity, by up to -40%. This new observation suggests a chemically distinct ULVZ with increasing iron content towards the core-mantle boundary, which has implications for Earth’s early evolutionary history and core-mantle interaction.</jats:p>



Journal Title

Nature Communications

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Nature Research
European Research Council (804071)