Geographic correlation between hot spots and deep mantle lateral shear-wave velocity gradients

Michael S. Thorne, Edward Garnero, Stephen P. Grand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

110 Scopus citations


Hot spot volcanism may originate from the deep mantle in regions exhibiting the Earth's most pronounced lateral S-wave velocity gradients. These strong gradient regions display an improved geographic correlation over S-wave velocities to surface hot spot locations. For the lowest velocities or strongest gradients occupying 10% of the surface area of the core-mantle boundary (CMB), hot spots are nearly twice as likely to overlie the anomalous gradients. If plumes arise in an isochemical lower mantle, plume initiation should occur in the hottest (thus lowest velocity) regions, or in the regions of strongest temperature gradients. However, if plume initiation occurs in the lowest velocity regions of the CMB lateral deflection of plumes or plume roots are required. The average lateral deflections of hot spot root locations from the vertical of the presumed current hot spot location ranges from ∼300 to 900 km at the CMB for the 10-30% of the CMB covered by the most anomalous low S-wave velocities. The deep mantle may, however, contain strong temperature gradients or be compositionally heterogeneous, with plume initiation in regions of strong lateral S-wave velocity gradients as well as low S-wave velocity regions. If mantle plumes arise from strong gradient regions, only half of the lateral deflection from plume root to hot spot surface location is required for the 10-30% of the CMB covered by the most anomalous strong lateral S-wave velocities. We find that strong gradient regions typically surround the large lower velocity regions in the base of the mantle, which may indicate a possible chemical, in addition to thermal, component to these regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 16 2004



  • Hot spot
  • Mantle convection
  • Mantle plume
  • Seismic tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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