Earth’s center could be cooling faster than expected

Earth’s center could be cooling faster than expected
Earth’s center could be cooling faster than expected

While humanity worries about the climate on Earth, research is concerned with the depths and the distant future. ETHZ researchers have just demonstrated in the laboratory that the interior of the blue planet is probably cooling much faster than previously thought.

ETHZ researchers have just demonstrated in the laboratory that the interior of the blue planet is probably cooling much faster than previously thought.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

For obvious reasons, it is difficult to experimentally verify the temperatures inside the Earth. The Earth’s outer core is about 3000 km deep and its temperature is estimated at some 6000 kelvins, which corresponds to about 5000 to 6000 degrees Celsius.

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) have therefore reproduced the layer at the interface between the Earth’s core and mantle in the laboratory. This interface is important because it is where the viscous rock of the mantle is in direct contact with the molten iron and nickel of the Earth’s outer core.

The temperature gradient (i.e. the gradual change in temperature with distance) between the two layers in question is very high, so that a large amount of heat can potentially flow through it. The layer at the interface consists mainly of the mineral bridgmanite.

A “dead” planet like Mars

ETH professor Motohiro Murakami and his colleagues at the Carnegie Institution for Science have developed a sophisticated system that allows the thermal conductivity of bridgmanite to be measured in the laboratory under the pressure and temperature conditions prevailing in the atmosphere. interior of the Earth.

“This measurement system has allowed us to show that the thermal conductivity of bridgmanite is about 1.5 times higher than previously thought,” said Murakami, quoted in the press release. According to the researcher, this suggests that the heat flow from the core to the mantle is also higher than previously thought.

Greater heat flux in turn increases mantle convection and accelerates Earth cooling. This could cause plate tectonics – which is maintained by mantle convection movements – to slow faster than predicted based on previous data.

“Our results could give us a new perspective on the evolution of the Earth’s dynamics. They suggest that Earth, like the other rocky planets Mercury and Mars, is cooling and becoming inactive much faster than expected,” says Murakami.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117329

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TAG: #Earths #center #cooling #faster #expected

 
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