Chemical heterogeneity, produced by the near-surface rock cycle and dominated volumetrically by subducted oceanic crust and its depleted residue, is continuously subducted into the mantle. This lithologic-scale chemical heterogeneity may survive in the mantle for as long as the age of Earth because chemical diffusion is inefficient. Estimates of rates of subduction and mantle processing over geologic history indicate that most or all of the mantle may be composed of lithologically heterogeneous material. Mineralogical models of the mantle show that chemical heterogeneity over many decades in length scale may be detectable by geophysical probes via its influence on seismic-wave propagation. Grain-scale heterogeneity influences the aggregate absolute seismic velocity and its lateral variation with temperature. The elastic-wave velocity contrast associated with lithologic-scale heterogeneity may be sufficient to produce observable scattering of short-period seismic waves.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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