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back to article Splash! Three times as much water as ALL of Earth's oceans found TRAPPED underground

A group of US researchers has discovered evidence that deep below the Earth's surface there may be as much as three times as much water as in all of our oceans combined. Schematic cross section of the Earth’s interior showing water trapped under the Earth's mantle Unfortunately, at such extreme depths, the new-found treasure …

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Its useless unless it is cheaper to extract than desalinizing seawater.

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Anonymous Coward

Young Johnny Canuck was out and about one day in Internetland. As he sucked on a straw, and wondered why turnip carts were so uncomfortable to ride on, he heard a "woosh" above his head. He looked up, but could see nothing. "It must have been a bee" he thought. "That would have been a bloody big bee, moving mighty fast", his subconscious chipped in. "Woulda been, tha's right" Johnny's conscious mind agreed. Then he continued his mental digression upon the discomfort afforded by root vegetable transportation.

The End.

PS. To post AC or not? A dilemma. On balance cowardice wins today.

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Mushroom

Equilibrium?

The question is, what's happening to that water? Is the Ocean leaking into it slowly, or is it giving up water to the surface? Or, if it's in balance, then where is the implied cyclic transport system? A good guess is the subducting oceanic plates vs volcanism, but volcanoes mostly appear as arcs near subducting oceanic plates, implying a short trip for the water.

I wonder if this water layer could have to do with those 'hot spots' like Hawaii and Yellowstone? Maybe the base water layer isn't enough to produce rising magma normally, but if something gets a plume going then it might draw in water from the surround and be self-sustaining. If so, then the water layer might be "useless" but it's hardly unimportant!

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Re: Equilibrium?

Good questions that are hinted at. Apparently, this is the lubrication for the tectonic plates and as one plate goes up, it pulls in water. As another goes down, it releases the water. From what they're saying, it seems that surface water is pulled in by the plates rising and released to the surface when the plates sink. It would be in equilibrium only if the plate rise vs plate sinking were in sync and equal. Hopefully, there's more research and answers down the road.

As I recall, the hotspots are more due to sub-surface aquifers coming in contact (or very close) to underground volcanic action. So those are basically surface water.

The researchers won't (I hope) even begin to think about what Joe Barton believes.

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Re: Equilibrium?

It's pretty well got to be in balance. It's had several billion years to do so, without either flooding or draining the surface.

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Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

"It's pretty well got to be in balance. It's had several billion years to do so, without either flooding or draining the surface."

Well, one or two people may disagree with that. Stranger things have happened, and there is a big list of historic "fables" that later turned out to be real events the locals just did not understand at the time. Such as meteors, super nova, tsunamis etc. Could that one other story have some grounding in truth?

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Dear Sir,

not necessarily so, unless one would argue the Neptune lived that in the sea, or that uhm whatshisnameagainwiththedingyboatandthedog - Charon - is that deep in the Earth.

I would assume we have finally found a way to stop these annoying volcanic outbursts, earthquakes and tsunamis: If we drain this layer from the lubricant is apparently has and fill it with superglue, that oughta stop all sorts of tectonic moves (preventing earthquakes and tsunamis), and in turn it will stop volcanic eruptions (as the plates don't move, lava can rise, and therefore volcanoes can't errupt).

Let's do this, as there surely are no consequences of humans tampering with systems we don't fully understand!

Regards,

Guus

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Noah's Ark was a racial memory of a localized catastrophic event. Possibly this one. Like most people "the world" consisted of that which they could experience.

There was no global flood, unless you count the two "snowball earth" events. But those were solid water, not liquid. And significantly before humankind. (Thus no way they could have made it into some random sky-fairy peasant control document.)

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Actually there was a near-global flood, sea level rise at the end of the last ice age:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundaland

It wasn't fast but it probably adversely affected a large fraction of humanity at the time.

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Yes. Sea levels change with the glacial cycles. That's a very different thing than "global flood". Or even different from the kind of cataclysmic flooding (say a collapsing pro-glacial lake) that could have embedded this meme into our racial memory.

Virtually every culture has a flood myth. Our species has been on the receiving end of some pretty big ones at various points. Maybe the post-glacial oceanic rebound is part of it, for some cultures. (Probably the Polynesians.) For most, however, I suspect that's not the trigger. "Catastrophic" flooding with few survivors seems to be the key...that usually indicates a large body of water having a major barrier give way, a-la lake Bonneville.

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Noah's Ark and flood myths: even back then, in a sparsely populated earth (populated by humans, that is -- many other species were enjoying their last millennia of life), people travelled, talked to each other, and swapped stories. Those humans on, say, the Black Sea would have connected to other people on the high Asian steppe and told this great story about a flood. And those people passed it on.

Memes are not exactly new.

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Except that the flood myth shows up in populations that should not have been able to have contact with one another...and the variability is too wide. Not all flood myths involve someone surviving. Some are "wipe out, rebirth of all", etc.

It's far more likely that most primitive cultures had an encounter with a massive flood at one point or another, and that this became a basic part of our racial memory.

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Re: Re Christoph: Equilibrium?

Let's do this, as there surely are no consequences of humans tampering with systems we don't fully understand!

You're right to be cautious. I urge everyone to support a worldwide moratorium on mining below the 410km depth. In fact, to be safe, we should set the limit at 400km. We're already 1% of the way there!

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Anonymous Coward

Bible Thumpers Rejoice

How long til our favourite bible thumpers make the connection with the flood story?

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

I was hoping for more of a query about sea-levels rising, etc...

To be honest, I'd be shocked if the water wasn't making it's way through somehow. Are you telling me that someone thought that billions of tonnes of a tiny molecule are somehow magically floating atop water-tight rocks that slide over each other and expose enormous holes in themselves all the time, when the pressures of deep-seas are such that we can't even send metal boxes down there? I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually some of the fuel for the Earth's internal heat that's hotter than the Sun - H and O make quite a bang, and H is pretty much the basis of a star.

Maybe not in the forms we know, maybe not in states usable by us, but we basically fire water into the hot rocks ourselves and collect it for heat, so it must be happening naturally all over the surface too. At the kinds of pressures and heats that turn dinosaurs into oil and trees into diamonds, though, who really knows how it happens?

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

You don't need this stuff foor Flood "explanation". At all. The post-glacial icewall floods are pretty well recorded, took place all along the line of the ice wall, and are quite visible when you know what to look for. And they took place well within range of our racial memory.

The only problem for the biblethumpers is that they happened more than 6000 years ago, so they either have to ignore them, or admit their basic calculation is wrong.

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

@Grikath

You don't need that either. Once you've allowed yourself the 'explanatory' luxury of a supernatural agent, unbounded by thermodynamics, gravity or the laws of conservation, then I can't see why you need to point to something so mundane as terrestrial geology.

That's what always gets me about those types of claims - the ones making them are happy to have God stop the sun in the sky, turn people to salt and, well, create the Earth in six days, but then seem to get quite specific when trying to explain a well-worn transposed myth.

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JDX
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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

Gen7:11 " in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open"

So clearly that's where all the water came from without the need to break matter conservation... and where it went afterwards ;)

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JDX
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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

>>The only problem for the biblethumpers is that they happened more than 6000 years ago, so they either have to ignore them, or admit their basic calculation is wrong.

You wouldn't be claiming most Christians, believe in a Young Earth theory would you? Because that would be making an argument based on total ignorance which in the circumstances is rather ironic. Even among what you might call radical/fundamentalist Christians - proper bible-thumpers rather than traditional CofE grannies - the vast majority don't believe that!

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

But, wouldn't this have disturbed the dinosaur fossils that God put there on the 7th day? I'm getting really worried now and I think this article might need to be brought to the attention of my congressman!

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

You mean this one:

http://www.kjvbible.org/geysers.html

Or is that to ask: Is science if finally catching up with what the Bible recorded so long ago? It'd difficult to argue with The Universal Observer.

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

@JDX

Okay, let's say that the source of the water was natural - this mantle-borne almost-water.

You then get to the question of how it was released in a way that it hasn't since; what was the catalyst for this event?

Here is where you get to a deep problem with the 'worldwide divine vengeance' theory. If the process was all natural, without requiring any miraculous intervention, in what sense was it sent by God? The only way for this event to have been through God's will but still natural is if the planet was 'created' not only with the potential for this devastation but also with a timer built in.

The last part is important because for this to be natural, the process that started it must be natural too; you can't say that it was a geological process, explainable by science if the instigation of that process was magical. A meteor colliding with the Earth is one thing; to claim that the meteor was deliberately, magically, plucked from it's orbit and hurled to the Earth is something rather different.

So, either this was always going to happen or it was caused by supernatural forces. If the former then you get into some real problems. Having built a doomsday clock into the Earth, God must have foreknown that man would reach a state where drowning them in their millions was the only recourse (save for one family) - else why build it that way? But, having known this from the start, how could he then have been deeply troubled to the point of regretting having ever made humankind? (Gen 6:6-7)

Of course, God made the Earth and the waters before humans so it's a bit odd that he would have built a doomsday device set to wipe out almost every living thing on the planet, then proceed to create living things and, taking a step back to admire his handiwork, claim that it was all proceeding smashingly. (Gen 1:31)

So, if it seems a bit odd (not to mention cruel) that God would create humans with the full knowledge that they would reach a level of "wickedness" and "evil" (Gen 6:5) requiring annihilation then one must propose supernatural intervention to open these vents where otherwise they would have remained closed.

If so you still have a non-natural agent messing about with physics - forcing tectonic plates apart or creating some artificial pressure in the mantle forcing the water up, etc... Whatever the case, energy 'ex nihilo' was inserted into a system creating a reaction for which there was no natural action, which is every bit as magical as conjuring up a flood wholesale.

As with a meteor being deliberately sent on a collision course with Earth, that the end result was mediated by natural forces (momentum and gravity in the case of the meteor) is to focus on the action of a bullet out of a gun rather than the person pulling the trigger.

Of course, you then have another problem, which is the emptying and subsequent re-filling of these water sources. As per the article, the pressure at that depth is not inconsiderable. If this 'water' was liberated and emptied from these 'reservoirs', that, surely, would have some effect on the makeup of these zones. One way or another, once emptied, the space previously occupied by this water would no longer be available for the water to 'recede' back into. The bible is very clear on this point. Some flood-folks say that the pressure downwards compressed the magma and forced it up in chains, thus saying that the earth was raised rather than the waters lowering but this is saying that that the bible is not really accurate when it says the waters had "receded" (NIV), "gone" (NLT), "subsided" (ESV), "decreased" (NSV), "abated" (KJV). (Gen 8:11.)

Whichever way you cut it, at some point in the process you need to rely on miraculous intervention - whether it's to let the water loose, get rid of it again or create it all in the first place - and at that point, the entire argument of proving a biblical, whole-world, flood with science is scuppered.

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Re: Bible Thumpers Rejoice

@JDX

"You wouldn't be claiming most Christians, believe in a Young Earth theory would you?"

I think it's more that those who feel the need to explain the Noachian flood as a real, historic and geologically sound event are generally Biblical literalists and thus also believe in a young earth and 6-day creation.

Those people also insist that the Sun really did stop in the sky so Joshua could continue to slaughter the Amorites and that Jesus really did transmute water into wine and that during the end times there will be swarms of locusts that actually have tails like scorpions tails and they will be followed by horses that actually have tails like serpents.

But the big one is the flood and it is important because it is used to explain much of the evidence arrayed against a young earth - fossils and canyons and stratifications and so on. For those who wish to prove that a biblical account of creation and the world is accurate, Noah's flood is a lynch-pin.

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Anonymous Coward

RE. Re. Equilibrium

Interesting, maybe Verne was right.

How likely is some sort of subterranean cave system similar to the one described, albeit somewhere seismically inactive (ie under North America away from the major fault lines) ?

It would have to be many times deeper than 14km down or we would have found it already, perhaps some sort of freak of geology that deflects seismic waves around it like a metamaterial due to a perovskite shell although it would probably (maybe) show up on geoneutrino scan.

Such a thing was actually described in science fiction by Verne and later by Arthur C Clarke but they were probably not aware of things like geoneutrinos or the chemistry of high pressure.

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Re: RE. Re. Equilibrium

Very unlikely indeed. Those caves would be squashed flat. Even Lemurians and the Ancients could hold long against the enormous pressure which fuses water into a new kind of mineral!

> geoneutrino scan

What.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE. Re. Equilibrium

Are you sure about that? Genoneutrinos are produced by 40K decay and 235U in the Earth's mantle and outer core, this has been proven by IceCUBE, Super Kamiokande and other neutrino detectors.

Also the existence of unusual seismic signatures suggests that voids could indeed form if the pressures were balanced and the shell happened to have just the right composition.

Think balloon blowing up underwater, sure it takes a lot of pressure but once inflated it is stable.

I suspect that the mechanism described in combination with a nanotube/diamondoid shell *might* be able to take the pressure and resemble the mechanism used in tungsten-halogen lights to stay stable, ie all the material spalled off redeposits somewhere else resulting in a stable zone at the centre.

Due to some carbon compounds having near thermal superconducting properties even at >700C

we don't fully understand how they would react at extreme pressures, its possible that with enough pressure and doping they could superconduct and therefore generate their own shielding.

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Re: RE. Re. Equilibrium

Er...I do think balloons needs the internal pressure to remain there once inflated, or am I missing something?

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Paris Hilton

But I read pretty much exactly that about 10 years ago?

Has the paper resurfaced, attached to a liferaft?

Also:

...there may be as much as three times as much water as in all of our oceans combined

Not sure whether that means 9 times as much?

And that representative is gold:

For those of you who can’t watch, Rep. Barton asks Energy Secretary Steven Chu “How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?” As Dr. Chu begins to describe plate tectonics and continental drift, Barton interrupts by asking “Isn’t it obvious that Alaska and the Arctic Ocean were a lot warmer?” As Dr. Chu explains that what is now Alaska actually drifted north over millions of years, Rep. Barton just laughs. And brags about “stumping” Dr. Chu on his YouTube channel.

Amurrica fuck yeah!

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Happy

Re: But I read pretty much exactly that about 10 years ago?

Have come across this before too, so it's nothing new.

I would have thought that most of that water got down there during the initial accretion of the planet as well as some being 'deep injected' by impacting comets and getting trapped.

Undoubtedly some gets taken down in subduction as the rock will be as saturated as it can get having sat under the sea for a longish time.

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How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska?

Don't need none of that plate claptrap to explain it.

God put it there. Probably on day 3.

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Re: But I read pretty much exactly that about 10 years ago? @ Destroy All Monsters

Well geologic research of this level moves at ...well... the same type of speed. It looks to me that this is a refinement of an existing theory, made possible by the next level of "how much pressure/temperature can we generate to simulate this? " technology.

And in all honesty. In the modern world where most people can't remember what happened last month, something that was published a decade ago might as well be "news". It's not as if any other industry recycles the same old themes every other couple of years...

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Box of frogs

"For those of you who can’t watch, Rep. Barton asks Energy Secretary Steven Chu “How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?” As Dr. Chu begins to describe plate tectonics and continental drift, Barton interrupts by asking “Isn’t it obvious that Alaska and the Arctic Ocean were a lot warmer?” As Dr. Chu explains that what is now Alaska actually drifted north over millions of years, Rep. Barton just laughs. And brags about “stumping” Dr. Chu on his YouTube channel."

A scary thought that significant numbers of the people that run

'The worlds most powerful and advanced nation'

are probably dumber than a Parisian box of frogs!

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Paris Hilton

Free Energy

But how deep do I have to run my pipe to power my leccy generating steam turbine??

Paris, because I would love to get hot and steamy with her, even if she is dumber than a box of frogs.

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Happy

Re: Free Energy

"...dumber than a box of frogs" up-vote for that bit.

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Re: Paris and hot and steamy

You want hot and Steamy? Send Paris to Kolkata it is that pretty well all the time. There was a huge storm last night so for a few hours after it was actually quite pleasant outside.

Oh, and the frogs were very vocal so she should be in good company.

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ringwoodite

Which I read at first as ringworldite. Rereading it was a disappointment.

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Trollface

Re: ringwoodite

It's good to have real QUALITY material under one's foot instead of some artificial, nongreen mystery stuff that is named after the sound you make when running your fingernails on a blackboard...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ringwoodite

There are lots of Ringwoodite's near me. Often found in the New Forest too.

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h3
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Its one of those things that should be left well alone.

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On the contrary, it's just water under the bridge.

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Suppose........

The water actually self cycles via osmosis or whatever method over time with that on the surface

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Re: Suppose........

@Arachnoid

It was my understanding that this is the source of the superheated water that comes out of the undersea vents and the cycle is exactly that - water taken into the crust by subduction then, over rather long time spans, having minerals stripped from it and eventually returned as fresh water to the ocean.

In that way the water is, kind of, 'cleaned' of all the minerals (salts) which go back into the mantle and go on to form new crust.

At least that's my understanding of it, but then it was also my understanding that this mechanism was already accepted so perhaps I have misunderstood!

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I'm telling you

it's those damned sand trout.

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It's all a matter of perspective

Before you start thinking of caverns measureless to man. Let us put it all into perspective. The oceans have an average depth of about 5Km, and cover about two thirds of the surface. If we reduced the size of the Earth to that of a football, the oceans would be about twice the thickness of a human hair deep Three times that much would only increase that to four times the thickness of a hair (taking into account that the oceans do not cover the whole surface).

Added to that is the fact that we know almost nothing about the gross physica properties of water and rock at such temperatures and pressures. I have seen cubes of Galena (lead sulphide) grown entirely in solid limstone. And that formed at a depth of only a few miles

You have to remember that the theories of the scientific communities are almost always wrong. Sad but true (Just count them up), so these theories are just that. Inspired guesses.

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Re: It's all a matter of perspective

...You have to remember that the theories of the scientific communities are almost always wrong. Sad but true..

Except for Climate Change. Whatever happens, that is ALWAYS RIGHT...

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Re: It's all a matter of perspective

@G R Goslin

"You have to remember that the theories of the scientific communities are almost always wrong. Sad but true (Just count them up), so these theories are just that. Inspired guesses."

That's a strong statement unless you define exactly what you by "theories" and "wrong".

Are you talking "theories"* or theories? Presumably the former, as a theory in science is somewhat more robust than an "inspired guess".

And what exactly does "wrong" mean? If you define it to mean anything not 100% complete and accurate down to the last detail then sure - even at the exalted level of a theory, they're all "wrong" by that logic. But then so is almost every other pronouncement across every field throughout all of time so it's not really even worth mentioning if that is the yardstick being used.

* - I.e. does your description of a "theory" accord with that of evolutionists (for whom evolution is 'only a theory') or with that of scientific bodies?

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Re: It's all a matter of perspective

Correct. The climate is indeed always changing, and we have lots and lots of scientific evidence to back that up. Fossil record, ice cores, tree rings, alluvial deposits, all confirm it. As for species extinctions, that was common knowledge among educated people by the mid-1800s. And even nonscientists like Tennyson knew the Flood wasn't the explanation.

The causes now...probably 97% of scientists who are capable of understanding basic radiation physics are agreed on the basic cause. There is, however, a lot of debate (and research) into and about the detail. That's called "science".

Remind me again where Monckton and Delingpole got their physics and chemistry degrees?

But then as Obama remarked just last week, the Republican politicians know perfectly well who is right. But the Tea Party and its Koch backers have scared them off saying it. Because in their world, a big club beats science and reason.

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Re: It's all a matter of perspective @Dodgy Geezer

Or, in your case, I presume, ALWAYS WRONG.

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Re: It's all a matter of perspective

A theory is method of predicting a reult fro a set of parameters, such that the result is ALWAYS correct, under all circumstances. If the result is not ALWAYS correct, then the theory is WRONG. If the theory is ALWAYS shown to be correct, it may be elevated to a Law. i.e, the Laws of Gravity, The Law of Conservation of Energy, the Inverse Square law, etc..

As to a theory in science being more robust than an inspired guess. If you remove the ;science' then you remove the 'inspired'. It becomes a mere guess, and has no validity.

If we take the plethora of climate models, as an example, they are ALL wrong, since they do not predict an actual result, even allowing for measurement and parameter errors. Using the Pythagorian Theorum you can predict the length of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle, from the length of the other two sides. As anyone who used the early digital computers (eg Sinclair), you did not always get the result as predicted, but that di not invalidate the Theorum, but it has still to be accepted as a Law, despite a very elegant 'proof'.

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I see that as usual you couldn't resist getting in a dig at religious people. Well done.

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