Scientists have what they believe to be proof that vast water reservoirs of oceans lie deep inside the Earth, just as Verne described in his famous novel.
What makes the discovery of ringwoodite so significant? The rare mineral is the confirmation scientists have needed for the past 50 years to prove the deep Earth water reservoir theory. Up until now, the debate has been ongoing over the composition of the transition zone. One side has argued that it’s composed of dry desert while the other contended it was a sea of water.
It’s the first “terrestrial” sample found. A form of mineral peridot, ringwoodite exists only where there is high pressure known as a transition zone.
The transition zone is so deep within the Earth that it’s impossible to conduct field work on the mineral. While, ringwoodite is found in meteorites, the sample is the first terrestrial one discovered.
Are There Reservoirs within the Earth?
The sample underwent years of extensive analyses and verification to present scientists with what they say is irrefutable proof that the mineral came from a deep water reservoir.
Sci-News reported that the mineral had a “significant amount of water – 1.5 per cent of its weight and was found only “410 to 660 km beneath the surface of our planet”.
In Canada, University of Alberta Professor Graham Pearson told Sci-News that the sample was “strong confirmation” of the deep Earth wet areas. He hypothesized that the transition zone could have as much water in the reservoirs as the entire world’s oceans.
Ringwoodite is typically found in the Earth’s mantle at 525 to 660 km depth. The mineral was first identified in 1969 when it was discovered in the fragmented piece of a meteorite found in Tenham, Australia in 1879. Fragments from the Tenham meteorite spread out over a 20 km area and have been the source of great scientific study in the understanding of meteorites.
The discovery of the ringwoodite sample was made by “artisan” miners working in the Juina region of Mato Grosso. Artisanal miners are independent miners that act as subcontractors for mines, but aren’t officially employed by a mining company.
So how did the mineral rock get to the Earth’s surface from so deep in the Earth’s mantle? The ringwoodite sample was nearly missed since it’s invisible to the naked eye. It was part of a volcanic rock, kimberlite, which is usually the rock that surrounds diamonds in the rough. Kimberlite is known to be lie at the deepest level of all volcanic rocks.
It was discovered in the kimberlite in 2009 while a team of scientists were searching the sample for a different mineral. Because the sample of ringwoodite was so small, it could have been easily missed.
Significance of Discovery of Deep Earth Water
The ringwoodite discovery proves that seas of water lie deep beneath the Earth’s crust. The Earth sciences of plate tectonics and volcanism are greatly impacted by this discovery. Many of the theories about the mechanisms of how rock melts and cools and how these processes cause the shifting of the plate tectonics below the crust must be rethought.
Professor Pearson told Sci-News, “Water changes everything about the way a planet works.” Or, more accurately, water changes the way scientists previously thought the planet worked. They must now go back to their drawing boards and reassess everything they were taught and everything they believed to be true Earth science.
Germany’s University of Bayreuth geologist Hans Keppler cautions against the Jules Verne visualization of this massive body of water. He explains in a Nature.com article that the water is probably locked up inside specific types of rocks “in a molecular form called hydroxyl.” In other words, the water isn’t in a massive liquid form as seen on the surface of the Earth or depicted in the epic novel.
What are your thoughts? Does this new science make sense? Or, is the truth about earth’s core a mixture of the both the old theory and the new?