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Length of day variations due to mantle dynamics at geological timescale

Abstract : The geological evolution of length of day (LOD) variations is mainly controlled by the frictional tidal torque responsible for the secular slowdown of the Earth's rotation and for the receding of the Moon. Superimposed on this variation, which has existed since the early history of the planet, there are, at shorter timescales (less than 1 Myr), LOD perturbations induced by the glaciation-deglaciation cycles. In this paper, we investigate the influence of mantle dynamics on LOD at the geological timescale. We use the complete non-linear equations to compute the influence of mantle density heterogeneities on the angular velocity of the rotation, that is to say on the LOD. We discuss the degree zero coefficient of the spherical harmonic expansion of the mantle mass anomaly, which is strongly dependent on the conservation of mass of the Earth.

We first compute the effects induced by upwelling domes and subducted plates sinking into the mantle, which are known to induce geological variations in the orientation of the rotation axis with respect to a fixed terrestrial frame (the so-called True Polar Wander). We find that the time-variable mantle density heterogeneities associated with the large-scale pattern of plate tectonic motions since 120 Ma and with the upwelling domes can perturb LOD by about ? per year, that is, with an order of magnitude smaller than the effects induced by the last deglaciation. Superimposed on this linear trend, we show that there are fluctuations around 0.1-0.2 s Myr-1 on a timescale of a few tens of millions of years.

We then combine a spherical model of mantle circulation with solutions for the equations governing the rotation of a viscous planet, to improve the constraint of mantle mass conservation.

Finally, we compare our results with other effects.

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Submitted on : Saturday, March 12, 2022 - 12:43:06 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, March 13, 2022 - 3:25:50 AM

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Marianne Greff-Lefftz. Length of day variations due to mantle dynamics at geological timescale. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011, 187, pp.595-612. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05169.x⟩. ⟨insu-03606431⟩

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