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Researchers Find Hidden Ocean Locked Up Deep Beneath The Earth

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Surface water can be pushed deep into the planet's mantle and get trapped inside rare minerals. (Photo: NASA/Getty Images)

Surface water can be pushed deep into the planet’s mantle and get trapped inside rare minerals. (Photo: NASA/Getty Images)

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LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas) – Not all of Earth’s water is at the surface. Scientists have located an ocean’s worth of water deep beneath the planet’s surface, reports Live Science.

The water is trapped in rare minerals that lie in the “transition zone” between the Earth’s molten magma and rocky crust.

The mineral is called ringwoodite. It forms under the intense heat and pressure of the zone. Laboratory experiments have found that it can contain water.

But not water as we think of it. Instead of liquid, ice or steam, the water is trapped in the very molecular structure of the ringwoodite. Bonded oxygen and hydrogen atoms become what are known as hydroxide ions.

Northwestern geophysicist Steve Jacobsen and University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt found deep pockets of magma located about 400 miles beneath North America, suggesting the presence of water.

They say the study suggests water from the Earth’s surface can be driven downwards by plate tectonics, when one section of the crust is pushed beneath another.

“If we are seeing this melting, then there has to be this water in the transition zone,” Schmandt told Live Science. “The transition zone can hold a lot of water, and could potentially have the same amount of H2O as all the world’s oceans.”

The findings also can give scientists a deeper understanding of the Earth’s water cycle.

“The surface water we have now came from degassing of molten rock. It came from the original rock ingredients of Earth,” Schmandt said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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