From Where Did the Earth’s Water Come?

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“Planet Earth makes its own water from scratch deep in the mantle” was the article headline in the January 27, 2017, New Scientist’s Daily News.1

It is ironic that secularist scientists are still seeking to explain where the Earth’s water came from. For many years now they have endeavored to fill in the difficult-to-explain pieces of their “story” about how our home Earth “just happened” to become so habitable for life over the course of its supposed billions-of-years history.

Secularists believe the Earth condensed from clumpy matter flung out of the solar nebula 4.56 or so billion years ago. It was thus originally a hot molten blob that cooled. They used to suggest that most of the water came from inside this cooling Earth, but not enough to fill the oceans we have on the Earth’s surface today. A once popular theory was that comets (which are essentially large, dirty snowballs) collided with the Earth and deposited their water on its surface.

Some of the waters for the Flood came from inside the Earth.

Meanwhile, these same secularists and Bible skeptics have been demanding that we Bible believers explain where the waters came from to flood the Earth during the cataclysmic Genesis Flood! Our answer hasn’t changed since the book of Genesis was written by special revelation from God: “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11). In other words, some of the waters for the Flood came from inside the Earth, adding to the waters already covering the Earth from the beginning on Day One of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:2); on Day Three, God gathered the waters into one place and called them seas (Genesis 1:9–10).

Of course, these same secularists and Bible skeptics say, as predicted in 2 Peter 3:3–6, that there never was a global flood on the Earth, even though it is still 70% covered in water, which averages more than 2 miles deep. But ironically, they also say that, due to the many evidences of massive water erosion on Mars, there was a watery flood “of Biblical proportions” on that planet in the past, even though that planet’s surface is dry today!

New Evidence of Mantle Water

So what’s this new evidence the secularists have found that confirms what the Bible said all along?

Earth’s huge store of water might have originated via chemical reactions in the mantle, rather than arriving from space through collisions with ice-rich comets. . . . That’s the upshot of a computer simulation of reactions in Earth’s upper mantle between liquid hydrogen and quartz, the most common and stable form of silica in this part of the planet. . . . The simple reaction takes place at about 1400 °C and pressures 20,000 times higher than atmospheric pressure as silica, or silicon dioxide, reacts with liquid hydrogen to form liquid water and silicon hydride.2

The results of these computer simulations have just been reported by Zdenek Futera at the University College Dublin in Ireland and his collaborators.3 This latest work simulates this reaction under various temperatures and pressures typical of the upper mantle between 40 and 400 kilometers down. It backs up previous work by Japanese researchers who performed and reported the reaction itself in 2014.4

In that previous study, Ayako Shinozaki at the University of Tokyo and his collaborators conducted experiments with natural quartz (SiO2) in a tiny chamber put under high pressures in a diamond anvil cell into which pure hydrogen (H2) was introduced as a supercritical fluid. The chamber was then also heated. Their investigations of the chemical reaction in these experiments determined that the quartz had dissolved in the hydrogen fluid, and water (H2O) and silicon hydride (SiH4) had formed. They concluded that hydrogen could potentially be oxidized to form water in the earth’s mantle when the silica (SiO2) components of mantle minerals dissolve in the hydrogen fluid thought to be present in the upper mantle.

So what was new about this latest study? Team member John Tse at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada commented, “We set up a computer simulation very close to their experimental conditions and simulated the trajectory of the reaction.”5 But, surprisingly, they found that “the hydrogen fluid diffuses through the quartz layer, but ends up forming water not at the surface, but in the bulk of the mineral,” according to Tse. “We analysed the density and structure of the trapped water, and found that it is highly pressurised.”6

Triggering of Deep Earthquakes

The authors also found that the pressure could reach as high as 200,000 atmospheres. The research team therefore suggested that this new water may be under so much pressure that it can trigger earthquakes hundreds of kilometers below the Earth’s surface, tremors whose origins have so far remained unexplained. “We observed the water to be at high pressure, which might lead to the possibility of induced earthquakes,” says Tse.7

The earthquakes could be triggered as the water finally escapes from the crystals. The occurrence of deep earthquakes in the uppermost mantle lithosphere beneath stable cratons (the foundational cores of continents) are known but remain enigmatic in their origin.8 For example, the 2013 Wind River (Wyoming) earthquake occurred at 75 ± 8 kilometers, well beneath the base of the crust, suggesting that it represented brittle failure at high temperatures in the rock of the mantle lithosphere. However, the triggering mechanism for such brittle failure in the stable mantle lithosphere remained a mystery.

These new computer simulations by this research team have now shown that the over-pressured water from the reaction between silica and hydrogen could be a possible trigger for initiating deep earthquakes in the mantle lithosphere below the continents. Other researchers agree, such as John Ludden, executive director of the British Geological Survey.9 But obviously further research is needed to quantify the amount of released water needed for triggering such deep earthquakes.

The Source of Earth’s Water?

However, what is even more significant is that this research team suggests that their findings may also inform us on how our planet got its water to start with. “As long as the supply of hydrogen can be sustained, one can speculate that water formed from this process could be a contributor to the origin of water during Earth’s early accretion,” says Tse. “Water formed in the mantle can reach the surface via multiple ways, for example, carried by magma in the form of volcanic activities.”10

And it is also possible that water is still being made this way deep inside Earth today. This “study highlights how the minerals that make up Earth’s mantle can incorporate large amounts of water, and how Earth is probably ‘wet’ in some sense all the way down to its core,” says Lydia Hallis at the University of Glasgow, UK.11

Not a New Discovery

However, this latest announcement is hardly new, considering numerous studies published over more than two and a half decades have found evidence of several oceans’ worth of water locked up in mantle rocks and minerals.

Even as recently as November 2016 there was news of the discovery of water in an inclusion within a diamond claimed to have come to the Earth’s surface from 1,000 kilometers down in the mantle.12 An international team had studied a diamond found in the São Luíz River system in Juina, Brazil, and found a sealed-off mineral inclusion that became trapped during the diamond’s formation.13

When the researchers took a closer look at this inclusion with infrared microscopy, they saw the unmistakable presence of hydroxyl ions (OH-), which normally come from water. They identified the mineral as ferropericlase, which consists of iron and magnesium oxide and can also absorb other metals such as chromium, aluminum, and titanium at the ultra-high temperatures and pressures of the lower mantle.

Water clearly has a role in plate tectonics, and we didn’t know before how deep these effects could reach.

According to team member Steve Jacobsen of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, the clincher was that, since the inclusion was trapped in the diamond the whole time, the water signature can only have come from the diamond’s place of formation in the lower mantle.14 “This is the deepest evidence for water recycling on the planet,” Jacobsen said. “The big take-home message is that the water cycle on Earth is bigger than we ever thought, extending into the deep mantle. Water clearly has a role in plate tectonics, and we didn’t know before how deep these effects could reach. It has implications for the origin of water on the planet.”15

Earlier Discoveries

Back in 2014 we reported on another similar study.16 In that instance, it was water found in the mineral ringwoodite discovered as an inclusion in another Brazilian diamond.17 In one news report, based on a relevant related study,18 it was even suggested that a reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans had thus been discovered 700 kilometers down beneath the Earth’s surface, which is good evidence that at least some of Earth’s water came from within.19

Furthermore, all these recently published studies are but the culmination of a long history of investigations of samples of mantle rocks and minerals brought to the Earth’s surface by volcanism coupled with studies of deep earthquakes.20 The collective conclusion is that there are vast amounts of water stored in the Earth’s mantle within its minerals. And not only does that water assist in mantle convection, plate movements, and volcanism, but that water can also be released onto the Earth’s surface via volcanic activity. “In fact, more than 400 kilometres inside the Earth there may be enough water to replace the surface oceans more than ten times”!21

The Implications

Yet Raymond Jeanloz of the University of California at Berkeley cannot fathom “a sudden outpouring of water, Noah-style . . . even if the balance does tilt to a greater outflow.”22 Thus it is only his evolutionary bias that precludes him accepting that a catastrophic outburst of water under pressure in the mantle could have occurred as “Noah-style” fountains, just as the Bible describes!

Therefore, it is plainly obvious that the Genesis account’s statement that the cataclysmic global Flood began with “the fountains of the great deep” being broken up (Genesis 7:11) is a vivid description of a catastrophic outbursting of water to the Earth’s surface. It is also obvious that water had been stored under pressure deep in the mantle during the pre-Flood era. Such outbursting of water would have accompanied an upwelling of plumes of mantle materials that melted as they rose to erupt and produce catastrophic volcanism. Under the oceans, the erupted lavas produced new ocean floor. On the continents, the humungous outpourings of lava flows and explosions of volcanic ash layers were deposited in between rapidly accumulating, fossil-burying sedimentary layers. The extra water that poured from the fountains added to rising sea level because of the upward push of the new, hot, buoyant ocean floor so that the ocean water was able to flood the continents. The earthquakes from these upheavals added tsunami-like surges of ocean waters to the rising flood, which deposited sediment layers right across the continents, burying critters as fossils.

Furthermore, the outbursts of mantle water through a vast global network of fractures split apart the original pre-Flood supercontinent into “tectonic plates.”23 The water inside the mantle lowered the viscosity of the mantle material (made the material less “thick”) so that it helped to move the tectonic plates across the Earth’s surface, producing the rapid-moving plate tectonics of the Flood event.24

The Bible’s description of that outbursting event is merely confirmed by the latest findings of the secular scientists.

So the waters that came from inside the Earth, combined with the waters in the original, created oceans to produce the Genesis Flood. The Bible’s description of that outbursting event is merely confirmed by the latest findings of the secular scientists. We can always absolutely trust the veracity of the Genesis account of the cataclysmic global Flood of Noah’s day and its history back to the creation in its very first verse. Thus the bulk of the Earth’s ocean waters did not originally come from the mantle, but were created by God already in place “in the beginning.”

Footnotes

  1. Andy Coghlan, “Planet Earth Makes Its Own Water from Scratch Deep in the Mantle,” New Scientist, January 27, 2017, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2119475-planet-earth-makes-its-own-water-from-scratch-deep-in-the-mantle/.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Zdenek Futera et al., “Formation and Properties of Water from Quartz and Hydrogen at High Pressure and Temperature,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 461 (2017): 54–60.
  4. Ayako Shinozaki, et al., “Formation of SiH4 and H2O by the Dissolution of Quartz in H2 Fluid under High Pressure and Temperature,” American Mineralogist 99.7 (2014): 1265–1269.
  5. Coghlan, “Planet Earth Makes Its Own Water from Scratch Deep in the Mantle.”
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Futera et al., “Formation and Properties of Water from Quartz and Hydrogen at High Pressure and Temperature.”
  9. Coghlan, “Planet Earth Makes Its Own Water from Scratch Deep in the Mantle.”
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Andy Coghlan, “Deepest Water Found 1000km Down, a Third of Way to Earth’s Core.” New Scientist, November 23, 2016, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23231014-700-deepest-water-found-1000km-down-a-third-of-way-to-earths-core/.
  13. M. Palot et al., “Evidence for H2O-bearing Fluids in the Lower Mantle from Diamond Inclusion,” Lithos 265 (2016): 237–243.
  14. Coghlan, “Deepest Water Found 1000km Down, a Third of Way to Earth’s Core.”
  15. Ibid.
  16. Elizabeth Mitchell, “Diamond with Ringwoodite Reveals Water Deep in Earth’s Mantle,” News to Know, April 17, 2014, https://answersingenesis.org/geology/rocks-and-minerals/diamond-ringwoodite-reveals-water-deep-earths-mantle/.
  17. D. G. Pearson, et al., “Hydrous Mantle Transition Zone Indicated by Ringwoodite Included within Diamond,” Nature 507 (2014): 221–224, doi:10.1038/nature13080.
  18. Brandon Schmandt, et al., “Dehydration Melting at the Top of the Lower Mantle,” Science 344 (2014): 1265–1268, doi:10.1126/science.1253358.
  19. Andy Coghlan, “Massive ‘Ocean’ Discovered towards Earth’s Core,” New Scientist, June 12, 2014, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25723-massive-ocean-discovered-towards-earths-core/.
  20. Lou Bergeron, “Deep Waters,” New Scientist, August 30, 1997, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15520974-900-deep-waters/.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Andrew A. Snelling, “A Catastrophic Breakup: A Scientific Look at Catastrophic Plate Tectonics,” Answers 2 (2007): 44–48, https://answersingenesis.org/geology/plate-tectonics/a-catastrophic-breakup/.
  24. Steven A. Austin, et al., “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History” in Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, ed. R. E. Walsh (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 1994), 609–612, https://answersingenesis.org/geology/plate-tectonics/catastrophic-plate-tectonics-global-flood-model-of-earth-history/.

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