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      Lowermost Mantle Shear‐Velocity Structure From Hierarchical Trans‐Dimensional Bayesian Tomography

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          Abstract

          The core‐mantle boundary (CMB) is the most extreme boundary within the Earth where the liquid, iron‐rich outer core interacts with the rocky, silicate mantle. The nature of the lowermost mantle atop the CMB, and its role in mantle dynamics, is not completely understood. Various regional studies have documented significant heterogeneities at different spatial scales. While there is a consensus on the long scale length structure of the inferred S‐wave speed tomograms, there are also notable differences stemming from different imaging methods and datasets. Here we aim to overcome over‐smoothing and avoid over‐fitting data for the case where the spatial coverage is sparse and the inverse problem ill‐posed. We present an S‐wave tomography model at a global scale for the Lowermost Mantle (LM) using the Hierarchical Trans‐Dimensional Bayesian Inversion (HTDBI) framework, LM‐HTDBI. Our LM‐HTDBI analysis of ScS‐S travel times includes uncertainty, and the complexity of the model is deduced from the data itself through an implicit parameterization of the model space. Our comprehensive resolution estimates indicate that short‐scale anomalies are significant and resolvable features of the lowermost mantle regardless of the chosen mantle‐model reference to correct the travel times above the D’’ layer. The recovered morphology of the Large‐Low‐Shear‐wave Velocity Provinces (LLSVPs) is complex, featuring small high‐velocity patches among low‐velocity domains. Instead of two large, unified, and smooth LLSVPs, the newly obtained images suggest that their margins are not uniformly flat.

          Plain Language Summary

          The lowermost mantle sits atop the core‐mantle boundary, the most dramatic boundary within our planet, with contrasts in physical properties that exceed those that exist at the surface. Despite significant progress in recent years, this part of the Earth is not well understood, and various tomographic studies on a global scale, along with regional studies that focus on seismic waveform modeling, pave the path towards higher resolution and new understanding. Important questions to answer are on the distribution, shape, size and composition of inhomogeneities in the lowermost mantle, and their critical role in the mantle and core dynamics. While there is a general consensus on the long‐scale length structures inferred from long‐period shear waves, there are notable differences in details of the tomograms of the lowermost mantle, stemming from the use of different imaging methods and datasets. Here, we utilize a large travel time data set of ScS and S waves with a significant addition of new measurements sensitive to the lowermost mantle to perform a probabilistic shear‐wave tomography, and we retrieve a high‐resolution image of the lowermost mantle. The new shear‐wave speed tomogram and comprehensive resolution‐estimations indicate that short and medium scale inhomogeneities are omnipresent features of the lowermost mantle.

          Key Points

          • S‐wave tomography of the lowermost mantle using state‐of‐the‐art Bayesian approach with 2D spherical Voronoi cells

          • The inversion technique treats the model complexity and the data noise as free parameters and avoids damping and smoothing

          • This study provides an important bridge between long‐scale features at a global scale and short‐scale features of regional models

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          Most cited references76

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              S40RTS: a degree-40 shear-velocity model for the mantle from new Rayleigh wave dispersion, teleseismic traveltime and normal-mode splitting function measurements

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
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                Journal
                Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
                JGR Solid Earth
                American Geophysical Union (AGU)
                2169-9313
                2169-9356
                September 2021
                September 14 2021
                September 2021
                : 126
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Research School of Earth Sciences The Australian National University Canberra ACT Australia
                [2 ] Department of Earth Sciences Utrecht University Utrecht the Netherlands
                Article
                10.1029/2020JB021557
                9eaa04e3-294b-4e9a-959b-3cac6cc58824
                © 2021

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