So They Just Found a Gigantic Lake of Molten Carbon Beneath the U.S.

Nearly twenty percent of the area under the land surrounding Yellowstone National Park, about 700,000 square miles, rests on top of a lake of liquid carbon. This discovery was published in the most recent volume of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The geologists behind the research are Saswata HierMajumder of the University of London and Benoit Tauzin of Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon. They used a global network of 583 seismic sensors to create a rendering of the upper mantle of Earth. The lake they detected is 217 miles below the surface of Earth, a distance far too deep to reach with current technology.

Plate tectonic forces known as subduction created the carbon lake. The Pacific Plate pushes under the North American Plate creating high pressures and extreme temperatures that cause part of the plate to melt and form the lake. The vibrations created as the plate melts are what allowed the researchers to find the lake using seismic readings.

discovery map

Map showing area of discovery. Credit: Source.

“It would be impossible for us to drill far enough down to physically ‘see’ the Earth’s mantle, so using this massive group of sensors we have to paint a picture of it using mathematical equations to interpret what is beneath us,” said Hier-Majumder.

The discovery has larger implications because it seems to indicate that the amount of carbon on Earth is far greater than what scientists previously believed. For a comparison,

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So They Just Found a Gigantic Lake of Molten Carbon Beneath the U.S.

by Aileen Wagner time to read: 2 min