A new global study has reopened this question: how did the atmosphere and oceans form? This research led by The Australian National University (ANU) has detected seawater cycles at depths of up to 2900km below the Earth’s surface which is much deeper than previously thought.
"Our findings make alternative theories for the origin of the atmosphere and oceans equally plausible, such as icy comets or meteorites bringing water to the Earth," lead researcher Dr Mark Kendrick from ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.
This upturned the previous notion that seawater was introduced into the planet’s interior when two tectonic plates converge and a plate is pushed underneath the other into the mantle. Instead, while previous theory explained that seawater is only about 100km into the mantle returned to the Earth's surface through volcanic arcs, this new research suggests that the origin of the world’s oceans and atmosphere may also possibly lie in collisions with other objects in the universe.
Hence, the team examined samples of volcanic glass from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. These contained traces of seawater that had been deeply cycled throughout Earth's interior.
"The combination of water and halogens found in the volcanic glasses enables us to preclude local seawater contamination and conclusively prove the water in the samples was derived from the mantle," Dr Kendrick said.
As mysterious as what lies beneath this vast ocean, even its origin can result to different responses and uncertainties. These inconsistencies give further probabilities than just popular theories like the mentioned volcanic release of water and gas from deep within the planet during the Earth’s first 100 million years. For now, this new finding still supports such previously known notion. However, this instigated more questions and possible discoveries that might soon change the way we think about things once again.