A sensitivity study of three-dimensional spherical mantle convection at 108 Rayleigh number: Effects of depth-dependent viscosity, heating mode, and an endothermic phase change
Mantle convection is influenced simultaneously by a number of physical effects: brittle failure in the surface plates, strongly variable viscosity, mineral phase changes, and both internal heating (radioactivity) and bottom heating from the core. Here we present a systematic study of three potentially important effects: depth-dependent viscosity, an endothermic phase change, and bottom versus internal heating. We model three-dimensional spherical convection at Rayleigh Ra=108 thus approaching the dynamical regime of the mantle. An isoviscous, internally heated reference model displays point-like downwellings from the cold upper boundary layer, a blue spectrum of thermal heterogeneity, and small but rapid time variations in flow diagnostics. A modest factor 30 increase in lower mantle viscosity results in a planform dominated by long, linear downwellings, a red spectrum, and great temporal stability. Bottom heating has the predictable effect of adding a thermal boundary layer at the base of the mantle. We use a Clapeyron slope of γ=-4 MPa °K-1 for the 670 km phase transition, resulting in a phase buoyancy parameter of P=-0.112. This phase change causes upwellings and downwellings to pause in the transition zone but has little influence on the inherent time dependence of flow and only a modest reddening effect on the heterogeneity spectrum. Larger values of P result in stronger effects, but our choice of P is likely already too large to be representative of the mantle transition zone. Combinations of all three effects are remarkably predictable in terms of the single-effect models, and the effect of depth-dependent viscosity is found to be dominant.