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EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Jun 16, 2014

Scientists believe a hidden “ocean” lies deep within Earth

They believe there might be three times as much water deep underground as exists in all the world’s surface oceans.

A study published in the journal Science on June 13, 2014 suggests a hidden “ocean” in the Earth’s mantle, some 650 kilometers (400 miles) beneath North America. This vast hidden reservoir of water may be locked in a blue crystalline mineral called ringwoodite. The evidence comes from seismic waves that ripple through Earth following earthquakes. This evidence suggests to these scientists that the ringwoodite in Earth’s mantle is saturated with liquid. They believe there might be three times as much water underground as exists in all the world’s surface oceans.

The scientists – geophysicist Dr. Steven Jacobsen at Northwestern University and seismologist Dr. Brandon Schmandt of the University of New Mexico – so far only have evidence that the water-saturated rock sits beneath North America. They want to know if it wraps around Earth.

If it does, it should help scientists understand the processes that govern life on Earth since water is, literally, life. On our planet, everywhere that we have found traces of water, we have found life. This makes the latest discovery by geologists extremely exciting.

They say scientists have been looking for this deep-Earth water for decades. Jacobsen said in a written statement:

Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight. I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet.

Huffington Post has a good article about the discovery.

From Quarks to Quasars explains the discovery in the context of Earth’s water.

Fragments of the blue-colored mineral called ringwoodite, synthesized in the laboratory.  Image via Steve Jacobsen.

Fragments of the blue-colored mineral called ringwoodite, synthesized in the laboratory. Image via Steve Jacobsen.

Bottom line: Scientists have evidence for an “ocean” of water hundreds of miles below Earth’s surface, locked in a blue crystalline mineral called ringwoodite. They believe there may be three times as much water below Earth’s surface as exists in all the world’s oceans.