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Journal Article

Convective Erosion of a Primordial Stratification Atop Earth's Core


Bouffard,  Mathieu
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Bouffard, M., Landeau, M., & Goument, A. (2020). Convective Erosion of a Primordial Stratification Atop Earth's Core. Geophysical Research Letters, 47(14): 87109. doi:10.1029/2020GL087109.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-0AE2-F
Seismic and geomagnetic observations suggest the presence of a stratified layer atop Earth's core. Previous laboratory experiments showed that this layer could be primordial, produced by a collision between the primitive Earth and a giant impactor. However, paleomagnetic data require turbulent flow motions in the core for the last 3.4 Ga. Such flows can erode an existing stratification. It is therefore unclear whether a primordial stratification still exists nowadays. Here, we use numerical simulations to investigate the erosion by thermal convection of a chemical layer atop Earth's core. Our scaling law predicts that a primordial layer thicker than 1 km with a density anomaly above 0.01% can survive 4.5 Ga of convective erosion. We conclude that the observed present-day stratification could be a vestige of core formation. We also observe strong double-diffusive flows in the layer. These might reconcile the existence of a stratification with the present-day structure of the geomagnetic field.