Scientists have found reason to believe that a massive body of water bigger than every ocean combined is currently flowing under the earth’s crust.
According to the Guardian, the study led by Northwestern University geophysicist Steve Jacobsen posits that a water reservoir locked in by a mineral called ringwoodite is trapped roughly 400 miles underground.
The discovery suggests that all of the water naturally produced by the earth could have come from inside it, eventually making its way above the surface thanks to geological movement.
“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.”
The current theory states that earth’s water came to us from comets covered in ice that hit the planet as it was forming. But Jacobsen and his team can now provide direct evidence that water is most likely stored in a section of the earth’s mantle called the transition zone.
“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. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”
The study is based on data produced by the US Array, a system of seismometers situated across the country that monitors the vibrations of earthquakes, and experiments conducted by Jacobsen about geological activity hundreds of miles underground.
Seismic waves decreased when they made contact with ringwoodite, which has a crystal structure that attracts hydrogen and therefore fuses to water like a sponge.
The change in wave strength indicates that they not only passed through water but also did so at an area that happens to be the right temperature for liquid to leak out of the mineral.
Jacobsen said that if water made up just 1 percent of the weight of the mantle rock in the transition zone, that would be equal to almost three times the amount of water in our oceans.
And, while no hard evidence of the underground ocean actually exists, he noted, the discovery is still extremely significant because it proved that rock melting in the mantle occurred hundreds of miles deeper than previously expected.
The underground ocean could also be maintaining the force required to keep our oceans in place, which may be why they have stayed the same size for millions of years.
The published study can be found in the journal Science.