Staggering amounts of water are being pulled deep into Earth’s interior as a result of tectonic activity.
And, scientists aren’t quite sure where it all ends up.
A new study using ocean-bottom seismographs across the Mariana Trench has found that Earth’s subduction zones drag down roughly three times more water than previously estimated.
According to the new calculations, the phenomenon amounts to 3 billion teragrams of water every million years, with one teragram alone equaling a billion kilograms, Live Science reports.
‘People knew that subduction zones could bring down water, but they didn’t know how much water,’ said lead author Chen Cai, from Washington University.
In the new study published to the journal Nature, the researchers used data from over a year’s worth of rumblings collected by 19 passive seismographs across the Mariana Trench.
They also looked at data from seven island-based seismographs.
This allowed for a more detailed picture of how the Pacific plate bends into the trench, revealing new insight on how the rocks hold onto water deep beneath the surface.
‘This research shows that subduction zones move far more water into Earth’s deep interior – many miles below the surface – than previously thought,’ said Candace Major, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences.
‘The results highlight the important role of subduction zones in Earth’s water cycle.’