Deep Earth oceans proven by rare diamond found in Brazil. A diamond containing the rare mineral ringwoodite has given ironclad evidence that there are massive pockets of water deep beneath the crust of the Earth, likely 250 miles or deeper. The diamond was found in shallow river gravel near the transition zone, an area of high tectonic activity, after being brought to the surface amongst volcanic kimberlite.
Ringwoodite is a form of the mineral perodite and is special for two reasons, one being that it is mostly composed of water, and the other being that it has never been found on Earth until now. Formed under very high pressure deep beneath the surface of the Earth, ringwoodite is changing the way scientists think about how minerals in the Earth move and shift, the addition of water where it was thought to be only molten rock being cause for head scratching.
Theories point to the immense pressure keeping the water liquid despite the mind-boggling high temperatures. The research is being carried out at the University of Alberta, where Graham Pearson leads the team that used infrared spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction to confirm that the sample was indeed ringwoodite. Pearson’s team estimates that near the transition zone may hold as much water as the entirety if Earth’s oceans. Deep Earth oceans proven by rare diamond could be revolutionary news for prolifically dry areas of the world, especially after the particularly dry winter that has just passed.
It is thought that the water comes from fault zones on the sea floor, where tectonic plates are pulling away from each other as new molten rock rises from the Earth’s mantle. It has long been thought that sea water could enter the crust given the immense pressure found at those depths, but the ringwoodite sample points to larger amounts of water entering than was previously thought. Many working theories of how rock melts, shifts, and cools beneath the surface will have to be revised having added water to the mix, but it may lead to the answers of some difficult questions as well.
Although the likelihood of the deep Earth oceans existing is very high, finding a way to get at it may prove more difficult than proving its existence. Even the deepest hole drilled into the Earth’s crust, the Kola Super Deep Bore Hole in Russia, is only 7.6 miles deep, and that is only a small drill bit. Finding a way to dig over 30 times that depth, and safely get water to the surface will likely be an engineering nightmare. Of course, being able to solve these challenges and effectively double the amount of water on the planet would be a dream come true.
After deep Earth oceans are proven by rare diamond discovery, there are many questions to answer and decisions to make. Although aquifers and underground rivers are fairly common, finding water at these depths is a game changing discovery that will likely have an extremely large impact on how humanity moves into the future.
By Daniel O’Brien