Alabama researchers say a sunken ocean floor surrounds Earth’s core and that’s okay

The research led by the University of Alabama has found a new layer between the Earth’s core and its mantle — the sinking ocean floor — that may play a key role in how heat escapes from the core itself.

“We found that this structure is much more complex than previously thought,” said Dr. Samantha Hansen, a professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

The research found differences in the thickness of the material “from a few kilometers to 10 kilometers,” said co-author Dr. Edward Garnero of Arizona State University. The results were published Wednesday in the journal Science advances

The University of Alabama said Hansen’s three years of seismic research used 15 buried stations in Antarctica as a “medical body scan”. These stations sent sound waves toward the core-mantle boundary. What came back, the university said, was “unexpected energy”.

The research area is “nearly 2,000 miles below the surface” where “Earth’s rocky mantle meets the molten, metallic outer core,” says the research report. And changes “in physical properties across this boundary are greater than those between solid rock at the surface and the air above.”

Hansen, students, and other researchers made four trips to Antarctica to collect data over a three-year period. It was “similar to a physical examination of the body,” according to a university press release, and focused on the basic mantle boundary.

“By analyzing 1,000′ of seismic recordings from Antarctica, our high-resolution imaging method found thin anomalies of material at (the core shelf boundary) everywhere we looked.” Garnero said. The thickness of the material varies from a few kilometers to 10 kilometers. This suggests that we see mountains in the core, in some places as high as 5 times Mount Everest.”

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