While it’s common knowledge that 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, a groundbreaking discovery reveals that a massive reservoir of water, three times larger than all surface oceans, is hidden beneath the Earth’s crust.
Back in 2014, scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois uncovered that the Earth essentially has an underground reservoir of water, locked up within a blue rock called ‘ringwoodite.’ Located 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, this vast water supply is contained within the Earth’s mantle, making it inaccessible to human activity.
Ringwoodite, a mineral with an unusual crystal structure, acts as a sponge for water, attracting hydrogen and trapping water within its molecular makeup. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen, who was part of the discovery, explained, “This mineral can contain a lot of water under conditions of the deep mantle.”
The scientists employed seismometers to measure earthquake-generated waves across the United States. They discovered that these waves traveled not only along the Earth’s surface but also throughout its core. By analyzing the speed and depth of these waves, the researchers deduced that ringwoodite was the rock responsible for containing the water.
Ringwoodite has the ability to hold up to 1.5 percent water. If the underground ringwoodite contains just 1 percent water, it means that it holds three times more water than all the oceans on Earth’s surface combined. This enormous reservoir could significantly impact our understanding of Earth’s formation and the origin of its water.
The discovery supports the theory that Earth’s water originated from within the planet, rather than being brought by asteroids and comets. Jacobsen believes that this finding is a crucial step towards understanding the whole-Earth water cycle, which might explain the immense quantity of liquid water present on the surface of our habitable planet.
In recent years, researchers have focused on discovering this “missing deep water,” which has been a subject of scientific debate for decades. The current evidence of ringwoodite and its hidden water is limited to beneath the United States, and Jacobsen’s team plans to investigate whether this underground layer extends across the entire Earth.
This remarkable discovery not only sheds light on the Earth’s geological history but also opens doors to further research on the planet’s complex water cycle, potentially leading to a better understanding of our world’s evolution and the origins of life.