Ocean of Molten Carbon the Size of Mexico Discovered Under Western U. S. : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan
I’m sure that most of you got up this morning thinking “I wish there was more to worry about!” I mean sometimes North Korea, the opioid epidemic, economic uncertainty, political chaos and new diseases aew just not enough, right. Well, I got your back on this one. Scientists have just discovered a gigantic ocean of molten carbon underneath the Western United States. Now, the good news is that it is 217 miles below the surface, but the bad news if the slowing shifting plates underneath the surface move in a certain way, not only would we get the earthquake that results from the shift, but we could also expose the carbon ocean which would severely and instantly change the climate for the next ten years.
The carbon ocean is about the size of Mexico, roughly seven hundred thousand square miles. At the moment it is tucked away in the Earth’s mantle with no pathway to the surface. If just a fraction of that carbon was released into the atmosphere, we’d be in big trouble. s for the planet. Just one per cent of the CO2 in that ocean 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. That, of course is very unlikely, but one possible way it could happen is through the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.
Now it’s been six hundred and forty thousand years since that volcano erupted, but if it did it would be a thousand times more powerful than the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s in 1980 and might darken the sun over the entire United States.
Using five hundred and thirty eight seismic sensors (the largest amount ever used for anything) scientists at London’s Royal Holloway University mapped a three-dimensional view of the area. This is done by timing the return bounce of sound waves. Different formations and types of rock produce a different angle and duration of return. By applying complicated algorithms an image can be created. As the ocean of carbon is far too deep to drill to this is the only way measurements can be done.
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. Scientists say that the deep carbon reservoir will eventually make its way to the surface but it would be a very slow process which would effect the climate slightly over a long period of time.
Discussing the findings published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Dr Sash Hier-Majumder said: “The residence time of this carbon in the mantle is relatively large (nearly 1 billion years), so this reserve is not an imminent threat. But one important mechanism by which carbon, sinking into the mantle via a sub-ducting oceanic plate, can make it’s way back to the surface is by arc volcanism.”
She added “arc volcanism returns between 30-40 per cent of the total sub-ducted carbon back into the atmosphere. The remaining carbon stays in the mantle for a much longer.” The supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park has not erupted for around 70,000 years, and scientists are 99.9 per cent certain that it won’t erupt this century. But there’s always a chance we could end up with Vesuvius times a million.
Nice, huh? On the plus side this kind of possible devastation makes Kim Jong and his undeliverable missiles a little less scary. Right?