Research at Arizona State University hints to a very active inner Earth area as depicted by these drawings. Image on the left is of Earth. The center image shows a section of Earth and its main divisions (solid inner core, liquid outer core and the lower mantle) including the D" zone. The image on the right is a zoom in of the D" region, which was studied by Edward Garnero and his colleagues. The researchers found strong topographical variations of the D" layer. It was detected as geographical variations in the inferred seismic anisotropy, the alignment of fabric or crystals in rocks.
At the surface of Earth, life on a geologic scale is calm and peaceful save the occasional earthquake caused by the rub and slip of Earth’s tectonic plates. But below Earth’s surface, scientists are beginning to find a far more dynamic and tumultuous region than previously thought.
Deep inside Earth, where the mantle meets the molten iron core, researchers are finding telltale signs of what could be a highly active area filled with exotic forms and substances. "This layer is far more complex than what we thought 10 years ago," said Arizona State University seismologist Edward Garnero. "It is a super dynamic situation, probably the most exotic part of Earth’s interior. This area, where the mantle meets the core halfway to Earth’s center (2,900 km below Earth’s surface), the change in density is several times greater than what we find at Earth’s surface, as represented by air and rock."
Garnero and a team of seismologists (Valerie Maupin, of the University of Oslo, Norway; Thorne Lay of the University of California, Santa Cruz; and Matthew Fouch of ASU) recently completed a study of Earth’s interior. They report their findings in the Oct. 8 issue of Science magazine. In "Variable Azimuthal Anisotropy in Earth’s Lowermost Mantle," the ASU researchers decipher unusual layering in Earth’s deep interior that may contain clues about how the interior churns and convects, and the relationship between Earth’s interior and its ever evolving surface.
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