The Earth's Core Is Like a Planet Inside a Planet

'The center of the Earth is harder to study than the center of the sun.'

Hrvoje Tkalčić

The center of the Earth has crazy weather, according to new research out of The Australian National University.

“The core is like a planet within a planet.” says associate professor Hrvoje Tkalčić, a geophysicist in the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, in the announcement.

His team used a complex mathematical model to map out the space where the liquid-iron outer-core of the Earth meets the solid but slowly convecting inner mantle, some 2,000 miles below the surface of the Earth. There, deep in the Earth, temperatures range from about 5,400 to 6,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure is a quarter of a million times what we feel on the surface. There is nobody living in the center of the Earth.

“Where the mantle meets the core is a more dramatic boundary than the surface of the Earth,” says Tkalčić. It’s as if the core is its own small interior planet with its own atmosphere and weather.

And as it turns out, the system is a lot more dynamic than previously thought. Variations in temperature, density, and chemical composition across regions of the lower mantle were about three times as large as had been estimated.

The team used earthquake data as a starting point, since the composition of the mantle below will affect tremors felt on the surface. Those data points are represented in the video by the red dots.

The team used the TerraWulf high-end computing cluster to generate their map.

Stuart Hay/ANU

From there, the team used the computational power of a room full of computers to trace backward and generate the most detailed picture we have of what the lower mantle actually looks like. The blue areas on the map show where the solid mantle is convecting faster, while in the red areas the mantle is moving more slowly.

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