PerspectiveGeophysics

Inside Earth Runs Hot and Cold

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Science  04 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6179, pp. 51-52
DOI: 10.1126/science.1252089

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Summary

The global mid-ocean ridge system is an interconnected network of volcanoes that produces the oceanic crust, which covers 70% of Earth's surface. The physical and chemical attributes of mid-ocean ridges, such as the depth of the volcanic ridge axis below the sea surface, the thickness of the oceanic crust created there, the composition of the erupted lava, and the way seismic waves interact with the mantle beneath the ridge, collectively reflect the properties of the mantle that melts to form the oceanic crust. On page 80 of this issue, Dalton et al. (1) explore relationships between global seismic wave velocities in the mantle beneath mid-ocean ridges and a global data set of ridge depth and lava chemistry (2). They find strong correlations between these three factors, ultimately linking the trends to a global mantle temperature variation of ∼250°C.