Wind doesn't just blow on Earth's surface but deep inside too, scientists find

Wind from the Earth's middle layer, dubbed 'mantle wind', blows through a 1500 km long hidden channel below Panama, as per a recent study.

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A team led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in US recently uncovered the existence of a 1500 kilometre (900 mile) long passageway deep beneath Panama in Central America and the Galapagos Islands in East Pacific Ocean. Here, materials from the Earth’s middle layer, the mantle, blow through a slab window below Panama in what they call ‘mantle wind’.

The discovery came to light after the team discovered “anomalous geochemical compositions” underneath Panama. Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences back in November. David Bekaert, postdoctoral scholar at WHOI, and lead author of the paper, explained, “We can compare volcanic systems to the body of a living organism; when the organism bleeds, it's kind of like magma bleeding out of the Earth. And you can measure the composition of that magma, just like you can measure a blood type. In this study, we measured an unexpected volcanic gas composition, sort of like when a human has a rare blood type. In the case of the Earth, we then try to explain where it came from in terms of deep geological processes."

Researchers collected material from a hot spring in Panama to trace the movement inside Earth's middle layer. (Image credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


The findings of the research show that a wind similar to what blows on Earth’s surface also blows laterally through shallow parts of the middle layer after originating in the deep interiors.

This is a rare finding as generally material is unable to pass through as the edges of tectonic plates, called "slabs" acts as barriers. But the channel under Panama seems to have a “slab window” allowing the “mantle wind” to flow through.  Lead author Bekaert said about the findings, “We found that in particular places of Central America, namely western Panama and behind the volcanic arc in Costa Rica, we have some exotic signatures [of geochemistry] that really resemble what you have in the Galápagos Islands”

He added, “Just beneath Panama, there is a hole, a window through the slab, that allows for the influx of this mantle component.”

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