Scientists have made the best computational modeling yet of mantle plumes. These are hypothesized, mushroom-shaped upwellings of hot rock from deep in the Earth that reach more than a thousand kilometers down.
Podcast host and science writer Jorge Salazar of the Texas Advanced Computing Center interviews two study co-authors - Ross Maguire, recent PhD graduate, and professor Jeroen Ritsema, both at the University of Michigan.
The scientists modeled mantle plumes on the Stampede supercomputer of the Texas Advanced Computing Center through an allocation on XSEDE, the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment funded by the National Science Foundation. And through XSEDE they also took advantage of Science Gateways and of the Campus Champions program at the University of Michigan.
With that support they showed, for the first time, details of how mantle plumes form and how they rise from Earth's mantle. What's more, the researchers say their work could guide future experiments with seismic imaging and help get to the bottom of mysteries like the origin of Hawaii's volcanos.
The international science team published their results on mantle plumes in January of 2018 in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth.