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Researchers May Have Found an Underground Ocean Beneath Earth's Surface
August 8, 2014
Researchers May Have Found an Underground Ocean Beneath Earth’s Surface

Recently, the internet was all abuzz about a tremendous underground ocean that may have been discovered beneath Earth’s surface. At Hotel Indigo East End, it’s no secret that we are head over heels in love with the ocean—what Long Islander isn’t?! However, a fact that may be a bit less public is that we’re also suckers for science, and this new breakthrough is super interesting! So we’re taking a little break from East End-centric news to dig a bit deeper into the new findings that’ve been making news lately.

There have been a number of theories and speculations about how the world came to be, and how different land masses were formed. A popular explanation for how the oceans came to exist is that icy comets struck the surface of the Earth, and melted into oceans. Research teams led by mineral physicist Steve Jacobsen of Northeastern University and Brandon Schmandt, assistant professor of geophysics at the University of New Mexico, have determined that perhaps the oceans emerged from deep within the Earth’s core.

The researchers took samples of ringwoodite, a rock that’s commonly found in the upper mantle layer of the Earth, which retains a substantial amount of water, and placed them in a machine that could emulate the temperature and pressure conditions 400-600km beneath the surface of the Earth. The found that ringwoodite that deep within the Earth undergoes dehydration, which means it loses one of its hydrogen atoms, thus becoming Hydroxyl (OH). Over time, the heat and pressure from the center of the Earth would force the dehydrated water up to the Earth’s surface, at which point it would regain that second hydrogen atom, becoming the type of water that we all know once it made its way through the Earth’s crust.

There has been a study mapping the mantle layer beneath the United States for the last ten years called the US Array Seismic Experiment. Using data from that study, Jacobsen and Schmandt’s teams have deduced that what we know about earthquakes supports their claims regarding the body of water within the Earth’s mantle. It is scientifically proven that earthquakes, which send seismic waves through the Earth’s core, slow down when they come across water. When earthquakes reach approximately 600km beneath the surface of the Earth, they mysteriously slow down.

The scientists aren’t saying that this body of water is the same thing as what we envision when we think of an underground ocean—the water within the mantle is dehydrated. Essentially, the theory is that deep down inside the Earth (approximately 600km), there are a whole bunch of semi-liquid rocks that are slowly dripping dehydrated water all over the place. Jacobsen has explained that if all of the dehydrated water within the Earth came to the surface as H2O, the only land above water would be the tips of mountaintops.

Crazy, right? If you’re a science nerd like us, we’d love to hear what you think about these new findings. Chat with us on Facebook!

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