Mondrian or Pollock, what is the true nature of the Earth mantle?

May 4th (Tuesday), 6 p.m., Via Zoom (online) – Open to Public. Presentation: “Mondrian or Pollock, what is the true nature of the Earth mantle?”, Presented by Sarah Lambart, University of Utah

We live on the Earth, but do we understand the >99% of it that lies beneath our feet, in its interior? We have had more access to the moon and its surface than the inner part of our own planet. We do know that earth’s interior consists of a metallic core, an outer thick and solid mantle, and then the overlying crust that we live atop. 

The mantle is by far the largest layer on Earth, representing 83% of the volume of the planet. 80% of the magmas produced on Earth are generated in the top 400km of the mantle. Hence, characterizing the nature of the upper mantle is crucial to understand the formation and evolution of our planet overtime. Yet, direct accesses to the mantle source of magmas are rare or even inexistent; the two main models that are debated can be illustrated with two 20th century impressionist artists: Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock. A “Mondrian-like mantle” in which large-scale heterogeneities would form well-defined separated reservoirs, contrasts dramatically with a “Pollock-like mantle”, where small-scale heterogeneities would be randomly distributed through the Earth’s layer. Using a combination of laboratory experiments, thermodynamic models and high spatial resolution geochemistry, Dr. Lambart and her team build models to predict the melting behavior of the mantle and the fate of magmas during their journey to the surface. Dr. Lambart’s talk will review the some of the tools that can be used to better understand the nature of the mantle and discriminate between a “Mondrian” and a “Pollock” model of what lies beneath our feet, and which plays a crucial role in the plate tectonics that make life on earth possible.

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