Unusual physical properties at the core-mantle boundary have been inferred from seismic and geodetic observations in recent years. We show how both types of observations can be explained by a layer of silicate sediments, which accumulate at the top of the core as Earth cools. Compaction of the sediments expels most of the liquid iron but leaves behind a small amount of core material, which is entrained in mantle convection and may account for the isotopic signatures of core material in some hot spot plumes. Extraction of light elements from the liquid core also enhances the vigor of convection in the core and may increase the power available to the geodynamo.
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