50 years ago, researchers discovered a leak in Earth’s oceans

The cover of the March 10, 1973 issue of Science News

Oceans could also be shrinking Science News, March 10, 1973

The oceans of the world could also be steadily shrinking, leaking slowly away into the Earth’s mantle…. Though the oceans are continually being slowly augmented by water carried up from Earth’s inside by volcanic exercise … some course of similar to sea-floor spreading appears to be letting the water seep away extra quickly than it’s changed.


Scientists traced the ocean’s leak to subduction zones, areas the place tectonic plates collide and the heavier of the 2 sinks into the mantle. It’s nonetheless unclear how a lot water has cycled between the deep ocean and mantle by means of the ages. A 2019 evaluation means that sea ranges have dropped by an average of up to 130 meters over the past 230 million years, partly attributable to Pangea’s breakup creating new subduction zones. In the meantime, molten rock that bubbles up from the mantle as continents drift aside could “rain” water back into the ocean, scientists reported in 2022. However since Earth’s mantle can hold more water because it cools (SN: 6/13/14), the oceans’ mass would possibly shrink by 20 p.c each billion years.


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