INTERPRETING THE EVOLUTION OF EARTH'S SURFACE TOPOGRAPHY IN TERMS OF MANTLE CONVECTION
Our ability to understand the impact of convection dynamics deep inside the mantle on time-dependent surface topography has made substantial progress over the past few years (e.g. Moucha et al., EPSL 2008; Spasojevic et al., GRL 2008). Recent progress has been achieved thanks to advances in tomographic imaging of the 3-D structure in the Earth's interior by simultaneously inverting global seismic, geodynamic and mineral physical data sets (Simmons et al., GJI 2009, JGR 2010). The most recent tomography-based simulations of mantle convection reveal the surprisingly large and crucial role of large-scale hot, active upwellings in controlling not only the heat flow across the mantle but also the topographic evolution of our planet. These tomography-based convection models are providing new views on how deep-mantle dynamics affects the surface evolution of our planet (Glisovic et al., GJI 2012). As we demonstrate, the convective contributions to surface topography are large and rapidly changing: generating as much as 2 km of topography in the East African Rift over the past 30 million years (Moucha & Forte, Nat. Geosci. 2011). These rapid changes due to the buoyancy of hot mantle are also shown to be fundamental to the interpretation of the topographic evolution of the U.S. East Coast since the mid-Pliocene (Rowley et al., Sci. 2013).