2010 Volume 119 Issue 6 Pages 1197-1214
Recent progress in our understanding of the consuming plate boundary indicates the ubiquitous occurrence of tectonic erosion of the hanging wall of the continental margin, sediment-trapped subduction, and direct subduction of immature oceanic arcs into deep mantle. Geological studies have estimated the volume of subducted tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) materials to about seven times the surface total volume of continental crust. To reveal the fate of subducted crusts and how they recycle within the Earth, we studied high-pressure densities and elastic properties of TTG by means of the first principles computation method and compared them to those of peridotite. We found that TTG is gravitationally stable and its seismic velocities are remarkably faster than peridotite in the depth range from 300 to 800 km, especially from 300 to 670 km. We, therefore, propose SiO2-rich second continents in the mantle transition zone, which used to form the TTG crust on the Earth's surface. Our proposed model may provide reasonable explanations of seismological observations such as the splitting of the 670 km discontinuity and seismic scatterers in the uppermost part of the lower mantle. The difference in seismic velocities between PREM model and experimental results in the lower part of the transition zone can be explained by 25 volumetric% of TTG, which would correspond to about six times the present volume of the continental crust. Formation and dynamics of those second continents would have controlled the Earth's thermal history over geologic time.