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ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2009) — As tags on household appliances warn, water conducts electricity extremely well. Now, scientists have found that enhanced electrical conductivity in parts of Earth's mantle may signal the presence of water far below our planet's surface.
The areas of high conductivity coincide with subduction zones--places where tectonic plates are being subducted beneath the Earth's crust, say the Oregon State University (OSU) scientists who performed the research. They used electromagnetic induction sounding of the Earth's mantle in the study. The method is very sensitive to interconnecting pockets of fluid in rocks and minerals.
"This work is important because it complements global 3-D seismic imaging of Earth's interior, which uses sound waves generated by earthquakes," said Robin Reichlin, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "Scientists may be able to combine these two methods to tease out a more detailed understanding of variations in Earth's inner composition, water content and temperature.".....
.....The implications are myriad. Water interacts with minerals differently at different depths, and small amounts of water may change the physical properties of rocks, alter the viscosity of materials in the mantle, assist in the formation of rising plumes of melted rock, and ultimately affect what flows out on the surface.
"In fact, we don't really know how much water there is on Earth," said Gary Egbert, an oceanographer at OSU and co-author of the paper. "There is some evidence that there is many times more water below the ocean floor than there is in all the oceans of the world combined. Our results may shed some light on this question......