Scientists at Columbia Universitys Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have ended a nine-year debate over whether the Earths inner core is undergoing changes that can be detected on a human timescale. Their work, which appears in the August 26 issue of the journal Science, measured differences in the time it took seismic waves generated by nearly identical earthquakes up to 35 years apart to travel through the Earths inner core.
"Our observations confirm the change of inner core travel times, which was first claimed by Song and Richards in 1996," said Jian Zhang, a doctoral student in seismology at Lamont-Doherty and one of the studys co-lead authors. "This should settle the debate on whether these changes are real or an artifact of the original measurement method, and get us back to the work of understanding the history and dynamics of our planet."
Earths core consists of a solid inner core about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) in diameter and a fluid outer core about 4,200 miles (7,000 km) across. The inner core plays an important role in the geodynamo that generates Earths magnetic field.
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