The Upper Mantle Geoid for Lithospheric Structure and Dynamics

F. Salajegheh, J.C. Afonso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Geoid anomalies offer crucial information on the internal density structure of the Earth, and thus, on its constitution and dynamic state. In order to interpret geoid undulations in terms of depth, magnitude and lateral extension of density anomalies in the lithosphere and upper mantle, the effects of lower mantle density anomalies need to be removed from the full geoid (thus obtaining the residual “upper mantle geoid”). However, how to achieve this seemingly simple filtering exercise has eluded consensus for decades in the solid Earth community. While there is wide agreement regarding the causative masses of degrees >10 in spherical harmonic expansions of the upper mantle geoid, those contributing to degrees <7–8 remain ambiguous. Here we use spherical harmonic analysis and recent tomography and density models from joint seismic-geodynamic inversions to derive a representative upper mantle geoid, including the contributions from low harmonic degrees. We show that the upper mantle geoid contains important contributions from degrees 5 and 6 and interpret the causative masses as arising from the coupling between the long-wavelength lithospheric structure and the sublithospheric upper mantle convection pattern. Importantly, the contributions from degrees 3 < l < 8 do not show a simple power-law behavior (e.g., Kaula's rule), which precludes the use of standard filtering techniques in the spectral domain. Our upper mantle geoid model will be useful in studies of (a) lithospheric structure, (b) dynamic topography and mantle viscosity, (c) lithosphere-asthenosphere interactions and (d) the global stress field within the lithosphere and its associated hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JB026397
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Dynamic topography
  • Earth structure
  • Lithosphere
  • Mantle flow
  • Upper mantle geoid
  • Density structure


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