Scientists have discovered a vast reservoir of water under the Earth's mantle they say could be larger than all the ocean's combined.
Canadian researchers say analysis of a rare mineral points to the huge store of water deep in Earth's mantle, 400-600 kilometres (250-375 miles) beneath our feet.
It echoes the hundred and fifty year old novel, 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', in which French science-fiction forerunner Jules Verne pictured a vast sea that lay deep under our planet's surface.
The evidence comes from a water-loving mineral called ringwoodite that came from the so-called transition zone sandwiched between the upper and lower layers of Earth's mantle
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The new theory, backed up by seismic data suggest that water is stored in the transition zone of Earth’s mantle.
It is thought to host minerals called ringwoodite and wadsleyite that can store water like a sponge.
If water does exists in huge volumes beneath Earth's crust, it is bound to have a big impact on the mechanics of volcanoes and the movement of tectonic plates.
The evidence comes from a water-loving mineral called ringwoodite that came from the so-called transition zone sandwiched between the upper and lower layers of Earth's mantle, they said in the journal Nature.
Analysis shows that 1.5% of the rock comprises molecules of water.
The find backs once-contested theories that the transition zone, or at least significant parts of it, is water-rich, the investigators said.
'This sample really provides extremely strong confirmation that there are local wet spots deep in the Earth in this area,' said Graham Pearson of Canada's University of Alberta, who led the research.
'That particular zone in the Earth, the transition zone, might have as much water as all the world's oceans put together.'
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