Composition of the Earth's interior: the importance of early events

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2008 Nov 28;366(1883):4077-103. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0166.


The detection of excess 142Nd caused by the decay of 103Ma half-life 146Sm in all terrestrial rocks compared with chondrites shows that the chondrite analogue compositional model cannot be strictly correct, at least for the accessible portion of the Earth. Both the continental crust (CC) and the mantle source of mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB) originate from the material characterized by superchondritic 142Nd/144Nd. Thus, the mass balance of CC plus mantle depleted by crust extraction (the MORB-source mantle) does not sum back to chondritic compositions, but instead to a composition with Sm/Nd ratio sufficiently high to explain the superchondritic 142Nd/144Nd. This requires that the mass of mantle depleted by CC extraction expand to 75-100 per cent of the mantle depending on the composition assumed for average CC. If the bulk silicate Earth has chondritic relative abundances of the refractory lithophile elements, then there must exist within the Earth's interior an incompatible-element-enriched reservoir that contains roughly 40 per cent of the Earth's 40Ar and heat-producing radioactive elements. The existence of this enriched reservoir is demonstrated by time-varying 142Nd/144Nd in Archaean crustal rocks. Calculations of the mass of the enriched reservoir along with seismically determined properties of the D'' layer at the base of the mantle allow the speculation that this enriched reservoir formed by the sinking of dense melts deep in a terrestrial magma ocean. The enriched reservoir may now be confined to the base of the mantle owing to a combination of compositionally induced high density and low viscosity, both of which allow only minimal entrainment into the overlying convecting mantle.

MeSH terms

  • Earth, Planet
  • Evolution, Planetary*
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Geology*
  • Isotopes
  • Viscosity


  • Isotopes