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A recent study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters revealed a volcanic lake spread beneath large portions of the Western half of the United States. The largest concentrations being found in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Geologists at the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, the University of London in the U.K, reportedly found the deep-Earth area of melting carbon using converted seismic waves, mapping an area almost 695,000 square miles.
“It would be impossible for us to drill far enough down to physically ‘see’ the Earth’s mantle, so using this massive group of sensors we have to paint a picture of it using mathematical equations to interpret what is beneath us, ” said Dr. Sash Hier-Majumder of Royal Holloway. Below was found a “Partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate.” This melting carbon, caused by shifting tectonic plates melting from the heat and friction of contact, is supposedly safe for another billion years unless arc volcanism were to release it to the surface.
A natural disaster of this kind would result in an explosion that could effect all of North America. “We might not think of the deep structure of the Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping but also for our future atmosphere, ” said Dr. Hier-Majumder, in a released statement. “For example, releasing only 1% of this CO2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil. The existence of such deep reservoirs shows how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle.”
Scientists have learned from this study that the Earth’s exterior layer, the upper mantle, may contain up to 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This discovery will inform further scientific endeavors and hopefully, need to a greater environmental awareness.