Anelasticity across seismic to tidal timescales: A self-consistent approach

Harriet C.P. Lau, Ulrich Faul, Jerry X. Mitrovica, David Al-Attar, Jeroen Tromp, Gordana Garapić

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In a pioneering study, Wahr & Bergen developed the widely adopted, pseudo-normal mode framework for predicting the impact of anelastic effects on the Earth's body tides. Lau et al. have recently derived an extended normal mode treatment of the problem (as well as a minor variant of the theory known as the direct solution method) that makes full use of theoretical developments in free oscillation seismology spanning the last quarter century and that avoids a series of assumptions and approximations adopted in the traditional theory for predicting anelastic effects. There are two noteworthy differences between these two theories: (1) the traditional theory only considers perturbations to the eigenmodes of an elastic Earth, whereas the new theory augments this set of modes to include the relaxation modes that arise in anelastic behaviour; and (2) the traditional theory approximates the complex perturbation to the tidal Love number as a scaled version of the complex perturbation to the elastic moduli, whereas the new theory computes the full complex perturbation to each eigenmode. In this study, we highlight the above differences using a series of synthetic calculations, and demonstrate that the traditional theory can introduce significant error in predictions of the complex perturbation to the Love numbers due to anelasticity and the related predictions of tidal lag angles. For the simplified Earth models we adopt, the computed lag angles differ by ~20 per cent. The assumptions in the traditional theory have important implications for previous studies that use model predictions to correct observables for body tide signals or that analyse observations of body tide deformation to infer mantle anelastic structure. Finally, we also highlight the fundamental difference between apparent attenuation (i.e. attenuation inferred from observations or predicted using the above theories) and intrinsic attenuation (i.e. the material property investigated through experiments), where both are often expressed in terms of lag angles or Q-1. In particular, we demonstrate the potentially significant (factor of two or more) bias introduced in estimates of Q-1 and its frequency dependence in studies that have treated Q-1 determined from tidal phase lags or measured experimentally as being equal. The observed or theoretically predicted lag angle (or apparent Q-1) differs from the intrinsic, material property due to inertia, self-gravity and effects associated with the energy budget. By accounting for these differences we derive, for a special case, an expression that accurately maps apparent attenuation predicted using the extended normal mode formalism of Lau et al. into intrinsic attenuation. The theory allows for more generalized mappings which may be used to robustly connect observations and predictions of tidal lag angles to results from laboratory experiments of mantle materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-384
Number of pages17
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Elasticity and anelasticity
  • Seismic attenuation
  • Theoretical seismology
  • Tides and planetary waves


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