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Convective and Tectonic Plate Velocities in a Mixed Heating Mantle
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  • Adrian Lenardic,
  • Johnny Seales,
  • William B. Moore,
  • Matthew B. Weller
Adrian Lenardic
Rice University

Corresponding Author:ajns@rice.edu

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Johnny Seales
Rice University
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William B. Moore
Hampton University
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Matthew B. Weller
Brown University
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Mantle convection is driven by the transport of heat from a planetary interior. This heat may come from the internal energy of the mantle or may come from the core beneath and in general there will be contributions from both. Past investigations of mixed-mode heating have revealed unusual behavior that confounds our intuition based on boundary layer theory applied to end-member cases. In particular, increased internal heating can cause a decrease in convective velocity despite an increase in surface heat flow. We investigate this behavior using numerical experiments and develop a scaling for velocity in the mixed-heating case. We identify a planform transition that impacts both heat flux and convective velocities. More significantly, we demonstrate that increased internal heating leads not only to a decrease in internal velocities but also a decrease in the velocity of the upper thermal boundary layer (a model analog of the Earth’s lithosphere). This behavior is connected to boundary layer interactions and is independent of any partic- ular rheological assumptions. In simulations with a temperature-dependent viscosity and a finite yield stress, increased internal heating does not cause an absolute decrease in surface velocity but does cause a decrease in sur- face velocity relative to the purely bottom or internally heated cases as well as a transition to rigid-lid behavior at high heating rates. The differences between a mixed system and end-member cases have implications for under- standing the connection between plate tectonics and mantle convection and for planetary thermal history modeling.
Feb 2021Published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems volume 22 issue 2. 10.1029/2020GC009278