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Indexed under : Earth Sciences

Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Earth's inner core

Since the 1930s, the mainstream view of the 'Inner Core' of planet Earth is that it's solid, and is composed primarily of iron, along with small percentages of nickel and some other light elements.

Since the 1980s, it has been known that the core is able to transmit seismic shear waves (transverse seismic waves) - called S waves (see Wikipedia ).

However, the speed of transmission of the S waves has been found to be anomalous. Theoretical calculations, confirmed by high pressure lab. experiments, have shown that the S waves should be traveling at roughly twice the speed as has been observed in the Earth seismic studies.

This anomaly is currently unexplained, leading some researchers to question the core's solidity. But, given the extreme pressure at the depth of the core, there is currently no widely accepted theory which shows how the core could be anything but solid.

A 2014 research team put forward an alternative possible explanation - that the core could be formed from iron carbide ( Fe7C3 ) rather than free iron.

If so, the core would be by far the most significant carbon store on Earth.

An Fe7C3-dominant inner core would match seismic observations and imply a major carbon reservoir in Earth’s deepest interior.

See: Hidden carbon in Earth’s inner core revealed by shear softening in dense Fe7C3 Open AccessProc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111(50): 17755–17758.

Further reading on interannual waves in the Earth's core. PNAS, March 2022

Also see : Earth's core rotation speedplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigEarth's core rotation speed

In the 1990s, several different research groups independently published details of studies which suggested that the Earth's solid inner core is rotating slightly faster that the rest of the planet. (example study )

Results indicated that th…
and Earth’s magnetic fieldplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigEarth’s magnetic field

Without the magnetic field, high energy radiation from space would affect the Earth's upper atmosphere much more dramatically – and high-energy radiation reaching the surface would be far higher. The levels of radiation without

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