Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kiana Morse makes this connection here…

The news entitled, “How the Earth made its own water — out of rocks” was reported by Adam Wernick in Public Radio International (PRI) on January 10th, 2015. This news article relates to perhaps the most puzzling topic in the hydrology domain: where did water on earth come from? Since the beginning of history, humans have become masters of hydrology and hydraulics, but we still are not sure where this life giving resource originated. In this article, Dr. Wendy Panero of Ohio State University explains her hypothesis that Earth’s water may have been trapped in the mantle since the formation of the planet, just not in the form we are used to. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms are stored separately within minerals in Earth’s interior, and under certain conditions they will combine to form water. Based on her research, an ocean’s worth of water can be stored in the mantle within a depth of about 460 miles. Panero’s hypothesis suggests that Earth’s mantle adds a geochemical process to the water cycle. Based on my engineering education, my informed opinion is that facts in this article are accurate based on the following references. Majorite, a mineral found within the Earth’s mantle, has been found to store an abundance of oxygen. Other researchers agree that unlocked oxygen could combine with hydrogen to form water (Bryner). It is also known that in the subduction zone, water-saturated rock is sucked down under the overlying plate (Richardson). However based on critical thinking, I believe this article lacks facts that further support Panero’s hypothesis. For example, the news does not explain the conditions that must be met in order for hydrogen and oxygen to recombine and form liquid water.

When considering the impacts of water resources engineering, one must consider the global, societal, economic, and environmental context. Uncovering the origin of water on Earth would mean a great deal on a global scale. Figuring out this missing puzzle piece would help scientists further understand the origin of life on earth. Furthermore, this information would provide clues regarding extraterrestrial life, or why Earth is the only inhabitable planet in our solar system. I found that Anthony (2014) also reported on the global impact that this discovery could lead to. He states that the more we understand about the earth’s formation, the more accurately we could predict the future. The cause-effect between identifying where water on earth came from and global impact is as follows – understanding how water can be made in the mantle would lead to a deeper understanding of how life on earth came to be. Scientists worldwide would be able to expand knowledge into many different topics, including studying extraterrestrial life forms.

References

Anthony, Sebastian. “Scientists Discover an Ocean 400 Miles beneath Our Feet That Could Fill Our Oceans Three times over | ExtremeTech.” ExtremeTech. Ziff Davis, 17 June 2014. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.

Bryner, Jeanna. “Huge Stockpile of Oxygen Found Deep Inside Earth.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 01 Oct. 2007. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

Richardson, Eliza. “How to Melt a Rock.” How to Melt a Rock. The Pennsylvania State University, 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

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