Surface topography and bathymetry around South America

Surface topography and bathymetry around South America (top) overlays variable topography on Earth’s upper mantle phase transition discontinuities near 410 km (middle) and 660 km (bottom) depth. Topography on the discontinuities is used to characterize compositional and thermal heterogeneity within the Earth. In this region, the large depressions are related to subduction processes, whereby cold Pacific plate lithosphere descends into the mantle beneath South America. (Image courtesy of N. Schmerr.)

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