Subducted lithosphere, hotspots, and the geoid

S. Thomas Crough*, Donna M. Jurdy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


The earth's largest positive geoid height anomalies are associated with subduction zones and hotspots. Although the correlation with subduction has been noted for many years, the correlation with hotspots is fully evident only when the subduction-related geoid highs are removed from the observed field. Using the assumption that subducted lithospheric slabs are uncompensated and are thermally re-equilibrated with the asthenosphere at the maximum depth of earthquakes, the expected geoid anomaly over subduction zones is calculated. This field provides a satis-factory fit to the observed circum-Pacific high. Subtraction of this predicted anomaly leaves a residual field which is correlated, at greater than the 99% confidence level, with the distribution of hotspots. Broad residual geoid highs occur over the central Pacific and the Africa/eastern Atlantic regions, the same areas where the hotspots are concentrated. The mass anomalies associated with hotspots and subducted slabs apparently control the location of the earth's spin axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-22
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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