Gigantic ocean under earth

In a world where water shortages are becoming a big problem, there’s some good news. Scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois have found a huge amount of water deep underground. It’s hidden inside a mineral called Ringwoodite. The underground gigantic ocean discovered is incredibly deep, about 700 kilometers down.

It’s three times bigger than all the oceans on the surface combined! This discovery not only surprises us with its size but also makes us rethink how Earth was formed. Using a bunch of seismographs spread across the United States, scientists figured out there’s a lot of water down there. This discovery is a big deal because it changes how we understand Earth’s history and where our water comes from.

What is Ringwoodite?     

Video by: Inhabitants, YouTube.

Ringwoodite is a blue rock mineral that forms under extreme pressure. It is usually not found in Earth’s crust but sometimes seen in meteorites that have undergone significant cosmic impacts. In the Earth’s mantle, it exists at depths down to 660 kilometers.

In 2014, scientists found a rare sample of terrestrial ringwoodite inside a diamond. This suggests it was formed about 135 kilometers deep inside earth. Another mineral, ferropericlase and enstatite are usually found with ringwoodite. They’re typically located at depths of 660 kilometers or more. This helps us understand where the diamond containing the ringwoodite might have formed.

Seismic waves researched from 500 earthquakes

To find out about this hidden ocean below the earth surface, scientists deployed 2000 seismic sensors across the USA. They studied the seismic waves produced by over 500 earthquakes. These waves move differently through the Earth’s layers, particularly the inner layers like the core. But they slow down when they pass through damp rock. This slowdown helped the researchers infer the presence of a significant amount of water underground.

Scientist explains that minerals in the Earth’s mantle transition zone can hold a lot of water. This zone is located between 410 to 660 kilometers below the surface. This suggests there might be a massive reservoir of water deep down. This could lead to some of the mantle melting due to dehydration. We studied how water moves from the transition zone into the deeper mantle. We used high-pressure lab experiments, computer simulations, and analysis of seismic waves.

The findings indicate that a large area in the transition zone could be hydrated. The process of dehydration melting could be trapping water in this zone, concluded the researchers.

Steve Jacobsen research on water inside Earth mantle

ringwoodite ocean- water inside earth

Professor Jacobsen’s research revolves around investigating the presence of water inside Earth mantle. His recent findings suggest a massive amount of water stored in hydrated minerals in the mantle. This water could exceed all the water in Earth’s oceans. Steven Jacobsen from Northwestern University, suggests that rocks like ringwoodite contribute significantly to this water storage.

“I’m exploring profound questions about the origins of Earth’s water. I study rocks because they give insights into the past,” Jacobsen said. Jacobsen attempted to recreate the type of ringwoodite in laboratory conditions. The ringwoodite was indeed found from hundreds of kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. But was unsuccessful, until he introduced water into the equation.

Is ringwoodite ocean possible or real?

Jacobsen explains that they found a diamond containing ringwoodite, shot up by a volcano long ago. This discovery showed that ringwoodite holds as much water as lab-made samples. It suggests ringwoodite can hold ten times more water than we thought, hinting at huge water reserves in the mantle rocks beneath us.

This depth is crucial because it marks the boundary between different mantle layers, where seismic waves change mysteriously. Ringwoodite holds water better than other minerals, so it likely releases a lot of water at this boundary. This change in minerals and water release might explain the strange behavior of seismic waves in this area.

The ringwoodite piece has a bit of water stuck to its molecules, like the 2014 sample. This is important because while lab tests suggested the mantle could hold lots of water, there wasn’t much direct proof.

The 2014 find hinted at this, but this new sample offers stronger proof. If ringwoodite is common in the mantle and holds lots of water, it could mean the Earth’s deep inside has more water than its surface. Finding this second sample suggests water storage might be widespread, supporting the idea of a ringwoodite ocean deep underground.

Can humans dig to ringwoodite ocean?

humans digging inside earth

Sadly humans haven’t gone very deep into the Earth. The deepest hole on earth we’ve dug is about 12 kilometers down, using big holes called boreholes. The Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia is the deepest one ever made. It reached about 12 kilometers below the Earth’s surface. This drilling project happened in the 1970s and 1980s by the Soviet Union.

But here’s the thing: even though 12 kilometers sounds deep, it’s actually just the outer layer of the Earth called the crust. The crust varies in thickness, from about 5 kilometers (3 miles) in some places under the oceans to up to 70 kilometers (43 miles) under continents.

Beyond the crust is something called the mantle, which goes much deeper—about 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) down.

While we haven’t physically explored deep into the Earth beyond the crust, scientists study it using seismic waves generated by earthquakes or human activities. They use these waves to learn about the Earth’s layers. But no one has gone down there themselves. So basically humans can’t reach to ringwoodite ocean.

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