There’s still a lot we don’t know about the interior of our planet, but scientists have recently discovered that water is slowly seeping there from the surface.
It’s not a simple journey. The liquid falls below the descending tectonic plates, before eventually reaching the core after a 2,900 km journey.
Although the process is slow, over billions of years it has formed a new surface between the molten metal in the outer core and the Earth’s outer mantle.
In a new study, scientists at Arizona State University said that the water triggers a chemical reaction, leading to the formation of a new layer that is “a few hundred kilometers” thick. (This is “thin” when it comes to the Earth’s inner layers.)
“For many years, the physical exchange between the Earth’s core and mantle was thought to be small. However, our recent high-pressure experiments reveal a different story.
“We found that when water reaches the mantle boundary, it interacts with silicon in the core, forming silica,” wrote co-author Dr. Dan Shim.
“This discovery, combined with our previous observation of diamonds forming from the reaction of water with carbon in liquid iron under extreme pressure, indicates a much more dynamic interaction between the core and mantle, indicating a significant physical exchange.”
So what does it mean for all of us on the surface?
“This discovery advances our understanding of Earth’s internal processes, indicating a global water cycle that is more extensive than previously recognized,” an ASU statement said.
“The changing ‘film’ of the core has profound implications for the geochemical cycles linking the surface water cycle to the deep mineral core.”
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