Monday, March 12, 2012

Volcanoes deliver two flavors of water

Seawater circulation pumps hydrogen and boron into the oceanic plates that make up the seafloor, and some of this seawater remains trapped as the plates descend into the mantle at areas called subduction zones. By analyzing samples of submarine volcanic glass near one of these areas, scientists found unexpected changes in isotopes of hydrogen and boron from the deep mantle.

They expected to see the isotope "fingerprint" of seawater. But in volcanoes from the Manus Basin they also discovered evidence of seawater distilled long ago from a more ancient plate descent event, preserved for as long as 1 billion years.

The data indicate that these ancient oceanic "slabs" can return to the upper mantle in some areas, and that rates of hydrogen exchange in the deep Earth may not conform to experiments. The research is published online publication of Nature Geoscience. Read More