The temperature variations on top of the core-mantle boundary are governed by the thermal conductivity of the minerals that comprise the overlying mantle. Estimates of the thermal conductivity of the most abundant phase, MgSiO3 perovskite, at core-mantle boundary conditions vary by a factor of ten. We performed ab initio simulations to determine the lattice thermal conductivity of MgSiO3 perovskite, finding a value of 6.8±0.9 Wm-1K-1 at core-mantle boundary conditions (136 GPa and 4000 K), consistent with geophysical constraints for the thermal state at the base of the mantle. Thermal conductivity depends strongly on pressure, explaining the dynamical stability of super-plumes. The dependence on temperature and composition is weak in the deep mantle: our results exhibit saturation as the phonon mean free path approaches the interatomic spacing. Combining our results with seismic tomography, we find large lateral variations in the heat-flux from the core that have important implications for core dynamics.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Stackhouse, S., Stixrude, L., & Karki, B. (2015). First-principles calculations of the lattice thermal conductivity of the lower mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 427, 11-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2015.06.050