EarthWord – Juvenile Water

Release Date:

Juvenile water is “new” water that is in, or derived from, materials deep within the Earth and has not previously appeared at the Earth’s surface or circulated in the atmosphere. 

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

'Blue Marble' image of the Earth
A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP.

Definition:

  • Juvenile water is “new” water that is in, or derived from, materials deep within the Earth and has not previously appeared at the Earth’s surface or circulated in the atmosphere. But…
  • This term predates our knowledge of plate tectonics, and people first used it assuming that water from the Earth’s mantle had remained there since the planet formed. We now know that subduction has conveyed surface water into the mantle during much of Earth’s 4.6 billion year history; volcanism vents it out. And fittingly this week’s EarthWord is being subsumed by the term “mantle” water.

Etymology:

  • Juvenile comes from the Latin word juvenīlis, which means youthful.

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Research suggests that an amazing volume of water is stored deep within the mantle and that this planet has a fascinating ability to recycle water. But with residence times exceeding ten million years, mantle water isn’t a practical water resource.
  • The amount of water in the deep Earth, how and where it is stored, and how it cycles are areas of interest to nearly every Earth science field. Scientists study mantle water for clues about the Earth’s history and for its links to plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the magnetic field, and mineral deposits.

USGS Use:

  • USGS research suggests that water from a subducted slab could facilitate fault slip along the San Andreas and Cascadia fault systems.
  • USGS studies correlate earthquake activity to water content of a subducted slab.
  • Sites where large volumes of magma and fluids have moved from the Earth’s mantle into rifts in the crust can host a suite of rare and important mineral deposits.

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