Earth’s water may have originally been formed deep within its mantle, study shows

Posted: February 4, 2017 by oldbrew in research
Image credit: BBC

Image credit: BBC

It’s an old idea but a new theory. The research director says ‘This is very exciting and in accord with very recent findings of an ‘ocean’s worth’ of water in the Earth’s mantle’.
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Earth’s water may have originally been formed by chemical reactions deep within the planet’s mantle, according to research led by University College Dublin.

The new theory offers an alternative explanation as to how the life-giving liquid may have originated on Earth reports

Previously, scientists have suggested that comets that collided with the planet could have deposited large amounts of ice on the Earth which later melted, forming water.

The investigators carried out computer simulations which found that reactions between high-pressure and high-temperature fluid hydrogen and silicon dioxide in quartz, found in Earth’s upper mantle, can form liquid water under the right conditions.

The simulations were carried out by Dr Zdenek Futera, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, under the direction of Profesor Niall English, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, and the Materials, Energy and Water Simulations research group. The team at UCD also worked closely with co-author of the paper, Professor John Tse, University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

The exercise tested the reaction at different temperatures and pressures typically found in the upper mantle 40 to 400km below the surface of the Earth. The simulations revealed that the silica and fluid hydrogen could form water when exposed to temperatures of just over 1400°C and at pressure 20,000 times higher than Earth’s atmospheric pressure.

Silica is found in abundance above and below the surface of the earth in the form of the mineral quartz – the Earth’s crust is 59 per cent silica.

The report continues here.

  1. tom0mason says:

    From the linked report comes —
    “The scientists had expected that the water would form on the surface of the silica, but instead, they were surprised to find that the water remained trapped inside the silica, leading to a massive build up of pressure.

    They also believe the release of this pressure could be responsible for triggering earthquakes hundreds of kilometres below the Earth’s surface.”

    I wonder if this mechanism could explain why there is so much sand on the earth.

  2. carol smith says:

    I like it. I like it. Wet quicksand bubbling up out of the crust or mantle. Is that possible? Sandstone formations occur throughout earth’s history, often at geological boundaries.

  3. willybamboo says:

    What about all the water we keep discovering in other unlikely parts of the solar system? Pluto is awash in the stuff, so to speak. Maybe there are a lot more comets delivering water to the planets than we realize

  4. Sphene says:

    From the paper’s abstract-

    “Interestingly, water is evolved in the subsurface region of the silica, and it remains confined there, isolated from the hydrogen fluid, which corresponds precisely to the ice-like spectroscopic patterns observed experimentally.” 


    I wonder how the interpretation of spectroscopic analyses of ice on other solar system bodies might be impacted by this finding.

  5. TA says:

    “What about all the water we keep discovering in other unlikely parts of the solar system? Pluto is awash in the stuff, so to speak.”

    Pluto and a lot of smaller bodies, like Europa, seem to have huge oceans of water under their surfaces. Water seems to be very common in objects like these.

  6. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Oh goodie – Australia won’t have to build any more desal plants!

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    The water was formed in space. It got here due to gravity.

    The only questions are what path it took and what chemical compounds it went through on the way.

    Since hydrates are very common in rocks, and water is very common in space, and we know hydrated rocks decompose into water when subducted, thus giving all that steam from volcanoes, I don’t see much need to fancy up anything beyond hydrated rocks falling into the proto earth (potentially just as snow covered asteroids and meteors and dust).

    I find that far simpler to imagine than finding a puddle of liquid hydrogen just laying around in space deciding to crawl down into the mantle…

  8. dscott says:

    Interestingly, this may lend some scientific credence to the Biblical Flood. Where did all the water come from to cover the highest mountains? It suggests a possible answer in addition to others such as condensation from a thicker atmosphere.

    Where did it all go? Glaciers and ice caps? Or also back into the ground? Boil off into space? A combination there of?

  9. Tim Spence says:

    We don’t know where water comes from, it’s true, and that puts the CO2 witch doctors in a more realistic perspective.

    I believe that scientists have just recently, and reluctantly, concluded that water probably doesn’t arrive by comets or meteors because it’s the wrong type of water in both cases, Deuterium based, (heavy water) as are the oceans on some of Jupiter’s moons.

    But coming from the earth itself by some unknown process also sounds ludicrous, but it’s looking more and more likely that we’re going to have to re-evaluate a lot of settled science once again. Personally, I have a gut feeling that it comes from the earth and not from outside.

  10. Roger Clague says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    February 5, 2017 at 2:22 am

    hydrated rocks falling into the proto earth

    Where did the hydrated rocks come? Possibly from inside a planet.

    So to postulate that the planet the water came from was ours and not another one somewhere else far away is simpler and therefore better.

  11. dscott says:

    Speaking of things scientists just discovered:

    A massive lake of molten carbon the size of Mexico is discovered under the US, and it could cause climate CHAOS

    Interesting excerpts:

    …Upper mantle could contain up to 100 trillion metric tonnes of melted carbon

    Its discovery challenges what researchers have assumed about how much carbon is trapped inside the planet …

    …The deep carbon reservoir discovered will eventually make its way to the surface through volcanic eruptions and contribute to climate change albeit very slowly, but a sudden release could have dire consequences…

    …’The residence time of this carbon in the mantle is relatively large (nearly 1 billion years), so this reserve is not an imminent threat.’ …

    …’For example, releasing only one per cent of this CO2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil.’

    ‘The existence of such deep reservoirs show how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle.’…

    So do we have mounting proof of the theory of Abiogenic petroleum origin?

    What would the atmospheric pressure be if this 100 trillion tons of CO2 were in Earth’s atmosphere? If the residence time is 1 billion years, what was Earth’s atmospheric pressure back then?

  12. oldbrew says:

    Dscott: ‘melted carbon’ is not the same as CO2 which is obviously a gas.

    It’s also 350km beneath the Earth’s surface. Is there oxygen down there?

  13. oldmanK says:

    CO2 is an odd animal. Easy to liquefy, solidify, depending on temp.

    From DScott quote: ” this may lend some scientific credence to the Biblical Flood”. Dump credence and look at the evidence. Mega-tsunamis happened repeatedly in the holocene, making the biblical,and earlier sumerian floods (separate, and both in the same place in the near east) a probability. The water went back from where it came, the Med basin (I have never been able to find anywhere evidence that it was fresh potable water).

  14. oldmanK says:

    Apparently this is not an original idea, but something that has been – in the wilderness– for a long time. See here :

    I have been (and am) reading the person’s works at this site : primarily on why and how crustal rotation takes place, a subject that has for me remained an unanswered anomaly. Apparently also, it does take a generation to shift academia from its entrenchment.