Scientists Think Water Lurks Far Beneath Earth's Surface

Erin Fitzgerald

According to new research, scientists think that water may lurk far beneath the Earth's surface; 250 miles beneath the surface, to be exact, Yahoo reports.

Studies show that approximately 250 miles below the Earth's surface, the mantle of the Earth meets the crust. Scientists are now convinced that below the "transition zone," decomposed and unstable brucite causes water molecules to run towards the surface of the planet.

What exactly is brucite? According to Web Mineral, brucite is an irregular-shaped, transparent crystal made up of fibers, typically 50 percent water and 50 percent magnesium oxide. They are typically yellow, white, blue, gray, or gray-blue in color.

A lecturer in computational physics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and co-author Andreas Hermann was not expecting this result.

"[This finding] was not entirely expected."[That's] because people have studied this material for decades and nobody ever thought of looking whether there would be another phase before it eventually fell apart."
"We create thousands of structures, optimize them all and do calculations accurate enough that if something stands out as more stable than something else, we can reliably say that it is so."

Water contains lubrication, which is needed for the rocks and minerals to move by each other during volcanic activity. Hermann explained that some rocks simply dissolve, which also helps with the rock movement. If our planet didn't have this deep reservoir of water, our Earth's geologic atmosphere would come to a complete halt, which would be catastrophic.

Hermann is very satisfied with the most recent findings regarding the deep Earth. He said that if they would have settled on the research that they originally had, they wouldn't have ever found out these new, very important details.

In 2014, studies conducted by researchers from the University of New Mexico and Northwestern University used synthesized ringwoodite to test the conditions of the Earth at 400 miles deep, Northwestern Now reports.

University of New Mexico's Northwestern geophysicist, Steve Jacobsen, has been creating synthetic ringwoodite for years to test the Earth's interior composition.

"The ringwoodite is like a sponge, soaking up water. There is something very special about the crystal structure of ringwoodite that allows it to attract hydrogen and trap water. This mineral can contain a lot of water under conditions of the deep mantle."

Jacobsen determined that by exposing the synthesized ringwoodite to the conditions of 400 miles below the Earth's surface, that it forms a partial melt. This was the same result as Brandon Schmandt had when he used seismic waves to observe the deep Earth.

"Seismic data from the USArray are giving us a clearer picture than ever before of the Earth's internal structure beneath North America. The melting we see appears to be driven by subduction -- the downwelling of mantle material from the surface."
"When a rock with a lot of H2O moves from the transition zone to the lower mantle it needs to get rid of the H2O somehow, so it melts a little bit. This is called dehydration melting."

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