– You never do know what is hidden beneath the ground do you?
Using satellite images that helped to create an ‘x-ray’ view of the planet, scientists have discovered a jet stream within the Earth’s molten iron core. There is a huge molten river moving rapidly beneath, North America, Canada and Russia. The extremely hot river is now moving towards Europe.
The European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites have provided scientists with the sharpest 7 x-ray image yet of the core. Researchers now not only see this this jet stream clearly for the first time, but they also understand why it’s there.
The vast jet stream of iron is almost as hot as our Sun and it is about 420 kilometers wide.
Previous studies showed that changes in the magnetic field indicated that iron in the outer core was moving faster in the northern hemisphere, mostly under Alaska and Siberia. New studies published in Nature Geoscience, reveal that the molten iron river moves at a speed of 40 kilometers per year. It is now circulating deep under Siberia and heading towards beneath Europe.
According to researchers from the University of Leeds who carried out the study this is three times faster than typical outer core speeds and hundreds of thousands of times faster than the speed at which the Earth’s tectonic plates move. Why the speed has increased is not yet known.
Researchers determined the position of the jet stream aligns with a boundary between two different regions in the core. The jet is likely to be caused by liquid in the core moving towards this boundary from both sides, which is squeezed out sideways.
“Further surprises are likely. The magnetic field is forever changing, and this could even make the jet stream switch direction,” Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s Swarm mission manager, said.
“We can explain it as an accelerating band of molten iron circling the North Pole, like the jet stream in the atmosphere,” said Dr. Livermore, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds.
“We know more about the Sun than the Earth’s core,” said Chris Finlay, another team member from the Technical University of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby.
“The discovery of this jet is an exciting step in learning more about our planet’s inner workings.”