Delving approximately 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) beneath the Earth's crust, researchers have discerned an intriguing layer right where the liquid, metal-rich outer core meets the overlying rocky mantle.
In a pioneering journey below the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, geologists have unearthed what appears to be an ancient ocean floor, speculated to envelop the Earth’s core.
Delving approximately 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) beneath the Earth’s crust, researchers have discerned an intriguing layer right where the liquid, metal-rich outer core meets the overlying rocky mantle. This intersection is scientifically termed as the core-mantle boundary (CMB).
Insight into Earth’s Hidden Depths
Geologist Samantha Hansen from the University of Alabama, expressing her views on the team’s novel findings, stated, “Our seismic research offers an unparalleled look into our planet’s interior. The intricate structure we’re uncovering far surpasses previous notions.” Knowledge of this intricate structure influences our understanding of diverse phenomena, from volcanic activities to fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field — our safeguard against harmful solar radiation.
The groundbreaking research utilized 15 seismic monitoring stations strategically placed within Antarctica’s icy expanse. Over a span of three years, these stations observed seismic waves generated by earthquakes. The patterns and refractions of these waves serve as a mirror to Earth’s inner constitution. Areas where these waves decelerate are termed ultralow velocity zones (ULVZs).
Geophysicist Edward Garnero from Arizona State University elaborated, “After examining thousands of seismic records from Antarctica, our cutting-edge imaging pinpointed thin, peculiar material zones at the CMB. These varied layers suggest we might be witnessing mountain-like structures within the core, some dwarfing even Mt. Everest.”
A Dive into the Past
The prevailing hypothesis suggests that these ULVZs could be remnants of ancient oceanic crusts submerged over eons. Despite these crusts not aligning with surface subduction zones — regions where tectonic activities drive rocks downward — the study’s simulations hint at how convection patterns might have translocated the prehistoric oceanic floor to its present position.
Although deciphering rock movements and types based on seismic waves poses challenges, the ancient ocean floor theory currently holds the strongest ground. Further seismic analyses will hopefully shed more light on this intriguing discovery.
This monumental discovery might pave the way for geologists to better comprehend how thermal energy transfers from the warmer, denser core to the overlying mantle. The contrasting nature of these two layers surpasses even that between Earth’s solid crust and the atmosphere we reside under.
Highlighting the significance of their work, Hansen mentioned, “Our findings build bridges between Earth’s superficial and profound structures, offering insights into the forces shaping our planet.”
For more on this discovery, refer to the research published in Science Advances.
An earlier version of this article was published by Curiosmos in April 2023.
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