Towards the creation of the first 4D maps of the Earth’s mantle

Towards the creation of the first 4D maps of the Earth's mantle

The Earth’s mantle is a huge, slowly moving layer of rock that lies beneath our surface . This circulation of rocks has literally shaped the world we live in today, from our islands and continents to our mountain ranges.

To know how our world has evolved, then, we need to have something more than a still photo : instead of a static image in 3D, we need a moving image that allows us to know how it has evolved and, eventually, how it will evolve.


A team of nine universities, led by Cardiff University, has set out to create the first 4-D maps of the Earth’s mantle by combining cutting-edge technology with the latest high-performance computing. The fourth dimension is time .

The project work packages combine dynamic topography, geochemistry, petrology and geomagnetism.

In this way we will be able to know the temperature, the density and the speed of the mantle during a period of million years. As the project’s principal investigator Huw Davies from Cardiff University explains:

By combining all this information, we will have a much clearer understanding of how our planet works. The 4-D visualizations that the project will produce will be of great interest to a wide variety of research areas and industries, from mineral resource exploration to understanding how large-scale events in the past shaped our climate and thus Therefore, they underpin stronger predictions of future climate change.

As part of the study, the team will have access for the first time to a record of plate movement from the last billion years of Earth’s history .

These data will be combined with seismic images of earthquakes that have occurred in the past and are currently occurring, which will provide information on the speed at which seismic waves are moving through the mantle.