Experimental investigations of the deep Earth's mantle melting properties

Abstract : Melting processes play a key role in the Earth’s evolution. In the early stages of theEarth's formation, large amounts of heat were released from (i) gravitational energy from coremantlesegregation, (ii) radiogenic decay and (iii) collisions with large-scale impactors (suchas the Moon-forming impact). This led to extensive mantle melting with eventual formation ofa magma ocean. Then, chemical segregation between the different terrestrial reservoirs resultedfrom the complex processes of mantle crystallization. These mechanisms were primarilycontrolled by thermal evolution of partially molten mantle. Partial melting however may stilloccurs today in different mantle regions. Evidences of low velocities zones (LVZ) in the uppermantle have been reported by different seismological and magneto-telluric studies, at a depthranging from 80 km down to the 410 km seismic discontinuity. The reduction in seismic wavevelocities reported is also consistent with the occurrence of partial melting. However, thismatter remains the source of a vivid debate.The experimental studies addressing melting of mantle materials show that the presentdaytemperature is not sufficient to induce melting of the bulk peridotitic or pyrolitic mantle,at all depths throughout upper mantle, transition zone and lower mantle. Melting can still arisein certain conditions, i.e. (i) in presence of significant amounts of volatile elements, such aswater or CO2, because it can decrease the melting temperature of silicate rocks by hundreds ofdegrees or (ii) for significant compositional changes, e.g. when the oceanic crust is subductedin the mantle.In this study, we performed melting experiment on a homogeneous glass withchondritic composition, a proxy for the primitive Earth’s mantle after core segregation. Weperformed in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction and in situ impedance spectroscopymeasurements to detect the onset of melting during the experiments in a multi anvil apparatus,at pressures up to 25 GPa, in order to determine the solidus temperature of the primitive uppermantle. Our results show that previous studies overestimated the solidus by approximately 250K. The implication for a lower solidus are manifold. Firstly, partial melting could take place inthe mantle today at lower temperatures than previously believed, especially when volatileelements such as H are present. The variation of the solidus temperature as a function of watercontent was therefore calculated using the cryoscopic relation reported in previous studies. Ourresults show that 500-600 ppm of water are required to depress the solidus temperature enoughto cross the mantle geotherm at depths in which LVL are observed, which is compatible withthe reported maximum water storage capability of the upper mantle.Another major implication concerns the early state of the upper mantle. Mantletemperatures 200-300 K higher than today, as suggested from the composition of ancient nonarcbasalts and komatiites, would induce partial melting at depths from ~200 to ~400 km. Thus,a shell of partially molten material could have persisted in the upper mantle for long geologicaltimes. Such weak layer could have decoupled the convection in upper and lower part of themantle, possibly disabling the establishment of modern tectonic during the Archean. Then,upon secular mantle cooling, the final mantle crystallization at mid upper-mantle depths wouldhave drastically modified the mantle dynamics, inducing global mantle convection.In this work, the melting properties of the basaltic crust subducted in the lower mantleis also presented. Subduction of the oceanic lithosphere is thought to be a major responsiblefor mantle heterogeneities. At shallow depths, slabs undergo dehydration, which induces partialmelting of the mantle wedge and arc magmatism. (...)
Keywords : Earth's mantle
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Giacomo Pesce. Experimental investigations of the deep Earth's mantle melting properties. Earth Sciences. Université Blaise Pascal - Clermont-Ferrand II, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016CLF22762⟩. ⟨tel-01913741⟩

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