A new scientific study led by researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, revealed that there is a colossal reservoir with approximately three times the volume of all the oceans combined hidden deep within the Earth’s mantle.
This discovery could be what finally helps us to comprehend where our seas and oceans came from.
Mineralogist Steven Jacobsen, who co-authored the study in Science journal, told the New Scientist:
It’s good evidence the Earth’s water came from within. I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. We should be grateful for this deep reservoir. If it wasn’t there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountain tops would be the only land poking out.
Concealed inside highly-pressurized rock known as ringwoodite (a layer of hot rock that separates the Earth’s surface from its core), the underground findings have shed some light on how little we know about this giver and taker of life on our planet.
Jacobsen and his team used a selection of 2000 seismometers to examine how seismic waves created by over 500 earthquakes move through the planet’s core. What they found was fascinating.
While calculating the speed of the waves as they passed through various layers of rock, the waves slowed down drastically when coming into contact with the ringwoodite, signifying the presence of water. At about 200 and 400 miles underground, there is a transition zone that contains wet ringwoodite, which under extreme pressure of the mantle, bleeds water.
“It’s rock with water along the boundaries between the grains, almost as if they’re sweating,” said Jacobsen.
Jacobsen was able to recreate similar conditions in the lab by exposing samples to intense pressure and temperatures but explained that more tests would need to be carried out.
It’s actually unclear how far this “ocean” extends, as Jacobsen’s team could only confirm the reservoir is present below the US.
Some geologists have long thought water was transported to Earth on the back of comets millions of years ago, but this discovery further solidifies the belief that oceans progressively emerged from the planet’s interior.
While incredibly vital to our survival, there seems to be little we understand about water.
The oceans on our planet’s surface are mysteriously vast — so vast that it has been said we have not even explored five percent.
We know that it covers more than 70 percent of the world’s surface, it regulates temperature, drives weather patterns, and in the end, supports every single living organism, but there is so much that remains to be learned from exploring the mysteries of the deep.