Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Shijie Zhong

Second Advisor

Michael Ritzwoller

Third Advisor

Michael Calkins

Fourth Advisor

Craig Jones

Fifth Advisor

Lang Farmer


The Earth’s long-wavelength geoid anomalies have long been used to constrain the dynamics and viscosity structure of the mantle in an isochemical, whole-mantle convection model. However, there are strong evidences that the seismically observed large low shear velocity provinces (LLSVPs) in the lowermost mantle are chemically distinct and denser than the ambient mantle. In this thesis, I investigated how chemically distinct and dense piles influence the geoid. I formulated dynamically self-consistent 3D spherical convection models with realistic mantle viscosity structure which reproduce Earth’s dominantly spherical harmonic degree-2 convection. The models revealed a compensation effect of the chemically dense LLSVPs. Next, I formulated instantaneous flow models based on seismic tomography to compute the geoid and constrain mantle viscosity assuming thermochemical convection with the compensation effect. Thermochemical models reconcile the geoid observations. The viscosity structure inverted for thermochemical models is nearly identical to that of whole-mantle models, and both prefer weak transition zone. Our results have implications for mineral physics, seismic tomographic studies, and mantle convection modelling.

Another part of this thesis describes analyses of the influence of mantle compressibility on thermal convection in an isoviscous and compressible fluid with infinite Prandtl number. A new formulation of the propagator matrix method is implemented to compute the critical Rayleigh number and the corresponding eigenfunctions for compressible convection. Heat flux and thermal boundary layer properties are quantified in numerical models and scaling laws are developed.