Evolving Viscous Anisotropy in the Upper Mantle and Its Geodynamic Implications

Király, C. P. Conrad, L. N. Hansen

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6 Scopus citations


Asthenospheric shear causes some minerals, particularly olivine, to develop anisotropic textures that can be detected seismically. In laboratory experiments, these textures are also associated with anisotropic viscous behavior, which should be important for geodynamic processes. To examine the role of anisotropic viscosity for asthenospheric deformation, we developed a numerical model of coupled anisotropic texture development and anisotropic viscosity, both calibrated with laboratory measurements of olivine aggregates. This model characterizes the time-dependent coupling between large-scale formation of lattice-preferred orientation (i.e., texture) and changes in asthenospheric viscosity for a series of simple deformation paths that represent upper mantle geodynamic processes. We find that texture development beneath a moving surface plate tends to align the a axes of olivine into the plate motion direction, which weakens the effective viscosity in this direction and increases plate velocity for a given driving force. Our models indicate that the effective viscosity increases for shear in the horizontal direction perpendicular to the a axes. This increase should slow plate motions and new texture development in this perpendicular direction and could impede changes to the plate motion direction for tens of millions of years. However, the same well-developed asthenospheric texture may foster subduction initiation perpendicular to the plate motion and deformations related to transform faults, as shearing on vertical planes seems to be favored across a sublithospheric olivine texture. These end-member cases examining shear deformation in the presence of a well-formed asthenospheric texture illustrate the importance of the mean olivine orientation, and its associated viscous anisotropy, for a variety of geodynamic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GC009159
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This manuscript was significantly improved by constructive feedback from two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by the Research Council of Norway Centres of Excellence project 223272.

Publisher Copyright:
©2020. The Authors.


  • LPO
  • anisotropic viscosity
  • asthenospheric deformation
  • olivine
  • plate motions
  • texture development


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