Evidence Of Water In Earth's Deep Mantle Found Inside Diamonds: What This Could Mean

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Peridotite is believed to be one of the rocks composing the Earth's mantle. The recent discovery of ice on a deep mantle diamond suggests that the Earth's mantle may not be as mostly solid as previously believed.   ( Thierry Zoccolan | AFP/Getty Images )

The discovery of Ice VII in mantle diamonds suggests the possibility of the Earth having water pockets in the mantle. What could this mean, and why is this important?

Diamond Ice Discovery

Recently, scientists discovered ice crystals in deep mantle diamonds which suggest that there are actually pockets of water in the Earth's mantle. It was found in the form of Ice VII, a high-pressure form of water inside the diamonds. Results of the scientists' analysis show that while Ice VII is solid while it is on the surface of the Earth, inside the mantle, it is actually liquid.

As such, the results of the study show that perhaps the mantle may not be quite as solid as previously believed. Amazingly, the discovery was merely accidental, as Ice VII was found while the scientists were looking for evidence of carbon dioxide.

The Earth's Mantle

The Earth's mantle is the layer of mostly solid bulk of rocks, silicates, and elements that separate the planet's crust and its superheated core. It is about 2,900 kilometers thick and comprises 84 percent of the Earth's total composition.

As mentioned, it is believed that the Earth's mantle is mostly solid and made up of solid rocks and elements such as potassium, iron, and aluminum. However, even before the discovery of Ice VII in a deep mantle diamond, some mantle maps have helped scientists identify "hidden reservoirs" of water in it. The discovery of Ice VII inside the diamonds is yet another evidence of a differently composed mantle.

Why This Is Important

The diamonds analyzed in the study were actually the diamonds that surged up from deep inside the Earth and found in China, South Africa, and Botswana, showing that this is not a regional occurrence but a global one. This means that scientists have found evidence of something that could potentially change the way we look at and try to understand the planet.

For instance, the presence of water on the mantle could influence the long-term rates at which heat escapes from the planet's exterior, and the varying composition of the mantle from being mostly solid to one with water pockets could give scientists a completely different understanding of its very mechanisms. Simply put, the discovery of water pockets in the Earth's mantle could lead to more precise models of how exactly the planet works on the inside.

"These discoveries are important in understanding that water-rich regions in the Earth's interior can play a role in the global water budget and the movement of heat-generating radioactive elements," said Oliver Tschauner of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, coauthor of the study.

The study is published in the journal Science.

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