The idea of an underwater world has prompted a lot of science fiction, but a group of researchers says it’s not too far from the scientific truth. They have discovered an area within the Earth’s surface that is believed to contain several times more water than the rest of the Earth’s oceans combined. The discovery was made by the discovery of diamonds, and may support a theory that has shaken conventional wisdom about how water appeared on the planet. Read on to find out what scientists have found and what impact it could have.
in Goethe University In Frankfurt, Germany, geologists were investigating a diamond that was found more than 2,100 feet underground in Botswana, Africa. When analyzing the contents of the stone, they found that it contains a large amount of water. The sheer volume of water in diamonds is evidence supporting a theory – previously just a theory – that a huge ocean hung between the upper and lower layers of the Earth, deep in the planet’s crust.
The depth at which the diamonds were found — 660 meters, or about 2,100 feet — is in the deepest part of the “transition zone,” the boundary layer that separates Earth’s upper mantle from the lower mantle. Minerals in lower regions of the transition zone – closer to the Earth’s core – are denser and less likely to move around like plate tectonics closer to the Earth’s surface. “These mineral shifts greatly hinder the movements of rocks in the mantle,” said Professor Frank Brinker of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Goethe University in Frankfurt. For example, mantle plumes – rising plumes of hot rock from the deep mantle – sometimes stop right below the transition zone. The movement of the mass in the opposite direction also stops.” Because of the density and stationary nature of this area, scientists were not sure how much water is there.
They even analyzed diamonds. Using advanced spectroscopy, the researchers found that diamonds contain ringwoodite, a mineral with a high water content. “We showed in this study that the transition zone is not a dry sponge, but rather that it contains large amounts of water,” Brinker said. “This also brings us one step closer to Jules Verne’s idea of an ocean inside the Earth.”
Scientists had previously hypothesized that because minerals deep in the Earth’s crust – wadsleyite and ringwoodite – can store large amounts of water, the transition zone likely contains six times as much water as all of the planet’s oceans. “We learned that the boundary layer has a tremendous capacity to store water,” Brinker says. “However, we didn’t know if she actually did.” Until now. It may be evidence that waters deep within Earth are part of the planet’s overall water system.
This discovery could join others in revising ideas for the source of Earth’s water. The prevailing theory is that the young planet was too hot to develop water naturally. Water is believed to have formed in the solar system, and then reached the planet by comets or asteroids that crashed into the surface. But if the water was located deep in the transition zone of the planet, this theory would not hold.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”