Mantle Plumes and Convection Visualizations

Compiled by John McDaris of SERC.

These animations and images are examples of the current state of knowledge and research into the nature of mantle convection and the origins of plumes.

The complete set of Visualization Collections is available.

Mantle Convection Cell (more info) An annotated illustration showing mantle convection and its relation to plate tectonics, from the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University.

Dynamic Earth - Mantle Convection (more info) This page from the University of Leeds gives an introduction to the drivers of plate tectonics, including links to illustrations depicting ridge push/ slab pull, ridge bathymetry, mantle tomographic data, plumes, and other topics.

Mantle Convection (more info) This page discusses thermal convection as it applies to the Earth's mantle and includes three QuickTime movies for three different cases of convection: heating from below, heating from within, and a combination of the two.

Thermal Structure from Models of Mantle Convection with Surface Plates, Temperature-dependent and Radially Stratified Viscosity (more info) This animation shows the evolution of thermal structure within the mantle over a period of about 4 transit times (equivalent to ~200 Ma). The scale of thermal structure is controlled by surface plates. Downwelling sheets and upwellings plumes are the predominant structures. Thermal anomalies below spreading centers only extend to a depth of about 200 km.

Mantle Dynamics Research at RSES (more info) This page from the Australian National University includes discussions (with figures) of research on mantle fluid dynamics and mantle evolution.

Mantle Convection (more info) This page from LMU Munich provides a text description of mantle convection with illustrations showing the relative effects of viscosity layering, phase changes, and heating conditions.

Mantle Convection Modeling (more info) This research page provides links to two animations of modeled mantle convection, showing the progression of convection over millions of years. There are also links to other work and publications by the author.

Leaky Layers (more info) Figure from the Nature Geoscience article, Geodynamics: Layer cake or plum pudding? by Paul Tackley (Nature Geoscience 1, 157 - 158 (2008)). The figure shows the current understanding of the interaction between the 660 km discontinuity, the core-mantle boundary, downgoing slabs, upwelling plumes.

Earth's Interior (more info) This website contains class notes from a Geology 101 (physical geology) course. It discusses the composition and structure of the Earth's interior. Each layer, the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust, is covered. Details about each layer explain their composition, temperature, depth, and state. Also covered is how scientists discovered what the interior of the Earth is made of through the use of seismic waves, plate tectonics, and the Earth's magnetic field.

Thermal evolution and mantel convection (more info) This page from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research provides some background on thermal convection as well as links to some 2D and 3D animations of mantle convection.

Visualization of 3D Mantle Data (more info) A series of simulations from the Yuen Research group of the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute at the University of Minnesota. There are three animations showing models of temperature and velocity within the Earth's mantle.

Mantle Convection Movies On-Line at Caltech ( This site may be offline. ) Animation of a proposed mechanism of superplume generation at the core/mantle boundary (succinct explanation included). Third from the top in a series of ten animations depicting mantle convection; produced by Michael Gurnis' group at Caltech.

Mantle Convection using Adaptive Mesh Refinement (more info) This page from the University of Texas at Austin gives a snapshot and brief description of an adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) global mantle convection simulation. Part of the TACC Scientific Visualization Gallery.