A massive lake of molten carbon the size of Mexico is discovered under the US, and it could cause climate CHAOS
- Situated under western US, 217 miles (350km) beneath the Earth’s surface
- Scientists used world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map area
- Melting carbon covers an area of 700,000 sq miles (1.8 million sq km)
- 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
A huge well of molten carbon that would spell disaster for the planet if released has been found under the US.
Scientists using the world’s largest array of seismic sensors have mapped a deep-Earth area, covering 700,000 sq miles (1.8 million sq km).
This is around the size of Mexico, and researchers say it has the potential to cause untold environmental damage.
The discovery could change our understanding of how much carbon the Earth contains, suggesting it is much more than we previously believed.
WHY COULD IT SPELL DISASTER?
If just a fraction of the carbon found by the Royal Holloway team were released into the atmosphere, it could have grave implications for the planet.
Just one per cent of the CO2 stored would be equivalent to burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil.
If a substantial amount was released all at once, it could bring about an environmental disaster on the scale of nuclear warfare.
One scenario in which this could happen is through the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
The volcano at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana last erupted 640,000 years ago.
If it were to erupt, it would be one thousand times as powerful as the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption and have the potential to blanket the US in a ‘nuclear winter’.
It would be impossible to drill far enough down to physically ‘see’ the Earth’s mantle, so a team of researchers used a massive group of sensors to paint a picture of it, using mathematical equations to interpret their results.
The study, conducted by geologists at Royal Holloway University in London, used a huge network of 583 seismic sensors that measure the Earth’s vibrations, to create a picture of the area’s deep sub surface.
Known as the upper mantle, this section of the Earth’s interior is known for by its high temperatures where solid carbonates melt, creating distinctive seismic patterns.
What they found was a vast buried deposit of molten carbon, which produces carbon dioxide and other gases, situated under the Western US, 217 miles (350km) beneath the Earth’s surface.
As a result of this study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, scientists now believe the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s upper mantle may be up to 100 trillion metric tons.
In comparison, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the global carbon emission in 2011 was nearly 10 billion metric tons – a tiny amount in comparison.
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.
Source Daily Mail