Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earth's Interior May Contain Oceans Of Water, Geologist Says

Date:
December 17, 1997
Source:
University Of Colorado At Boulder
Summary:
The earth's interior may contain three to five oceans of water locked within billions of crystals that could help regulate the level of water on the surface of the planet, a University of Colorado at Boulder geologist says.

The earth's interior may contain three to five oceans of water locked within billions of crystals that could help regulate the level of water on the surface of the planet, a University of Colorado at Boulder geologist says.

Ten years ago, Professor Joseph Smyth discovered that a mineral called wadsleyite, located 250 miles to 350 miles below the earth's surface, could contain water. The wadsleyite does not contain liquid water, but the elements needed to make water bound up in crystals in solid form.

As a rule, rocks on earth are quite dry -- much drier than meteorites, for example, which also contain wadsleyite. Earth rocks generally contain only a small fraction of 1 percent of water. Wadsleyite is about 3.3 percent water.

That may not seem like much, but given the amount of wadsleyite scientists think is in the earth-- it could be three to five times the amount of all the surface water on the planet, Smyth said.

"It's possible the earth has this way of regulating the amount of water on the surface," Smyth said.

The part of the earth where wadsleyite is located, the mantle, convects and occasionally breaks through to the surface in the volcanic vents of mid-ocean ridges where the continental plates are spreading.

Water may be carried down into the upper mantle through subduction zones where plates converge, and it is possible that wadsleyite could store large amounts of water in this region, he said. With rising convection currents, the wadsleyite may melt and release water vapor into the oceans as the molten rock cools.

The wadsleyite in the mantle is at a pressure of about 3 million pounds per square inch and a temperature of about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is located in the top half of the transition zone between the upper and lower mantle.

The amount of wadsleyite in the earth has been calculated. The big question is how much water the wadsleyite contains, and Smyth is conducting laboratory tests to try to find the answer.

His tests consist of making wadsleyite in the lab by squeezing it between two diamonds in a vice -- which creates 3 million pounds per square inch of pressure -- and then analyzing the sample with X-rays to determine water content and other physical properties.

Determining the amount of water in wadsleyite would allow scientists to know the speed at which wadsleyite transmits seismic waves. If seismic waves sent through the earth matched that speed, scientists would know how much the water is held within the earth.

Smyth chaired a panel of 13 scientific presentations on "Water in the Mantle" Dec. 12 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The earth's oceans have existed for at least four billion years, and have been fairly constant in volume over the last 500 million years. These "inner oceans" may play a role in regulating that supply, Smyth said.

In 1996 Smyth also discovered wadsleyite II, which may store water under even greater pressures at a lower portion of the transition zone. Two undergraduate students and four graduate students are assisting Smyth on his research.

More information on wadsleyite structures can be found on the Internet at http://ruby.colorado.edu/~smyth/Home.html.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Colorado At Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Colorado At Boulder. "Earth's Interior May Contain Oceans Of Water, Geologist Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/12/971217071316.htm>.
University Of Colorado At Boulder. (1997, December 17). Earth's Interior May Contain Oceans Of Water, Geologist Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/12/971217071316.htm
University Of Colorado At Boulder. "Earth's Interior May Contain Oceans Of Water, Geologist Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/12/971217071316.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Billions of dollars are being spent on a massive super sewer to take away London's vast output of waste, which is endangering the River Thames. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) Green balls of algae washed up on Sydney, Australia's Dee Why Beach. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) The People's Climate March in New York City drew more than 300,000 people, possibly a record-breaking number. Was the march underreported? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins