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New discovery hints at reservoir of water deep within the Earth

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By Margeaux Morin
Reporter
@MargeauxMorin
Monday, March 17, 2014, 6:24 PM

A new discovery originating deep within the Earth has been made by University of Alberta researchers.

Their work has confirmed a 50 year-old theory that the centre of the Earth contains a mineral named ringwoodite.


RELATED: NASA releases first-ever view of Earth from the surface of Mars 


Nobody has ever seen the elusive mineral until now.

Earlier this month, U of A researchers announced they have found the first ever naturally-occurring piece of ringwoodite embedded in a diamond from deep within the Earth.

Since 2.5% of the ringwoodite's composition is water, it's believed that wet spots exist deep within the Earth and that there could be a hidden reservoir that could contain more water than all of our planet's oceans combined.

A diamond from Juína, Brazil, containing inclusions of mineral ringwoodite. Credit: Richard Siemens/University of Alberta

A diamond from Juína, Brazil, containing inclusions of mineral ringwoodite. Credit: Richard Siemens/University of Alberta

"There are two really important things about this discovery," says Dr. Graham Pearson from the University of Alberta.

"One is that ringwoodite has been proposed as being one of the major minerals in the deep Earth for the past 50 years, but no one had ever held a piece of ringwoodite in their hands ... the second important piece is that 25 years ago, a scientist named Joe Smith at Bolder, Colorado, made a theoretical calculation that suggested that ringwoodite should be able to contain two and a half percent water. There was then a hypothesis that maybe the deep Earth has a lot of water ... this is the direct evidence that there must be at least locally, probably more wide spread, a lot of water in the deep mantle, around about at least at the 500 km depth but probably distributed from about 400 km to nearly 700 km into the Earth."

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