Feb 16, 2017 I Brett Tingley

Terrifying Sea of Molten Carbon Hiding Under Western U.S.

Geologists at the University of London’s Department of Earth Sciences are reporting the discovery of a sea of molten carbon-based minerals underneath the western United States. The sea of carbon stretches across 695,000 square miles (1.8 million square km) and lies some 217 miles (350 km) below the surface of the Earth. The temperatures of this reservoir can reach up to 7,230°F (4,000°C), hot enough to melt carbon-based minerals known as carbonates, thought to be responsible for the conductivity of the Earth’s mantle.

The sea stretches below the ground throughout North America, concentrated in the Pacific Northwest.

The discovery was made through an analysis of seismic activity collected by hundreds of sensors spread out throughout North America. The sea of molten carbon is thought to be created by the incredible heat and pressure created by the volatile tectonic region stretching across the Pacific region of North America where two massive plates meet. As the Pacific Plate is pushed under the North American plate, carbon dioxide and water in the plate cause minerals to melt, releasing the carbon inside.

This type of molten carbon is usually released into the atmosphere by volcanic activity.

University of London geologist Sash Hier-Majumder believes this sea of 100 million tons of molten carbonates could have dire implications for climate change if it isn’t managed properly or some natural disaster were to release it into the atmosphere:

We might not think of the deep structure of the Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping but also for our future atmosphere. For example, releasing only 1% of this CO2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil.

Thus, with this discovery and others like it, the mechanisms of climate change become even more mysterious. While manmade activity is almost universally accepted as a catalyst driving climate change, there remain many unknown natural phenomena which could be having untold effects on our planet’s climate. As long as the climate apocalypse (climepocaplypse?) waits to happen until after I binge season two of Stranger Things this Halloween night, I’ll burn up and choke on carbon dioxide in the wake of worldwide volcanic super-eruptions a happy man.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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