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Where do our planet’s oceans come from? New research done in part at Brookhaven shows it may come from the rocks deep in the Earth’s mantle.
The water is trapped inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that sits between the Upper Mantle and Lower Mantle in a spot called the Transition Zone about 450 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.
Northwestern geophysicist Steve Jacobsen and University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt have found deep pockets of magma in this zone, an indicator of water that is squeezed out of the rocks by enormous pressures and temperatures.
Jacobsen and his team used a diamond-anvil cell at one of the UV beamlines at our National Synchrotron Light Source to mimic those pressures on a sample of ringwoodite. Compressed between two tiny diamonds and laser-heated to almost 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, the sample sweated out its water.
But it’s not in a form familiar to us — it’s not liquid, ice, or vapor. It’s water trapped in the molecular structure of the minerals in the mantle rock. If just one percent of the weight of mantle rock located in the Transition Zone is H2O, that would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans!!