Vast oceans of water far below Earth’s crust

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

underground seas
The transition zone lies somewhere 250-400 miles below Earth’s crust.

Scientists have long believed that a special type of mineral called ringwoodite existed deep in the Earth’s crust, but they never had enough evidence to prove its existence. Now, however, researchers working in Brazil have found a small deposit of the mineral, and made a shocking discovering while running lab tests: there are oceans of water deep below the Earth’s surface! This evidence completely changes the way researchers understand the insides of our planet.

The mega find was actually an accident, since scientists were looking for a different mineral when one of them spotted a seemingly worthless brown diamond in the dirt. After extensive lab testing, they determined that the diamond contained the mineral ringwoodite, which can be found between 250-400 miles below the Earth’s crust in a region known as the transition zone. It appears the mineral was pushed to the surface by some of the deepest known volcanic rock called kimberlite.

Lab tests revealed a portion of the mineral’s weight was made up of water, which may prove there is water in the transition zone. What’s truly mind-boggling, is that the water quantity in this area may be more than all of the surface oceans combined! This information provides a clue that may explain the motion of tectonic plates – slabs of rock located on the uppermost part of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle, that can cause earthquakes.

These findings definitely challenge previous assumptions about the Earth’s inner crust.

Featured image courtesy of oldandsolo on Flickr. Image of Earth diagram courtesy of the University of Alberta.