Scientists Use Seismic Data to Get an Inside Look at Earth

Science Art
Monday, 16 March 2015 - 2:54PM

Earthquake activity has allowed researchers to visualize the inside of the Earth, and it looks something like a kaleidoscopic marble:


[Credit: Ebru Bozdağ, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, and David Pugmire, Oak Ridge National Laboratory]


In order to create this gorgeous representation of the interior of our planet, Jeroen Tromp of Princeton University and his colleagues ran simulations of seismic activity in order to glean the Earth's inner structure. 


Seismic data can indirectly allow for visualization of the Earth as a result of the variable speeds of seismic waves. During an earthquake, these waves travel faster through solid rock than through viscous materials, such as molten magma. By mapping the areas in which the waves move faster or more slowly, the researchers can approximately gauge the locations of subterranean features like mineral deposits, underground lakes, etc.


The above picture represents the world underneath the Pacific Ocean. Slower seismic waves, which are hindered by viscous materials, are in red and orange, while faster waves are in green and blue. Faster waves most likely vibrate through subduction zones, or areas in which one tectonic plate slides under another. The research team aims to create a 3-D map of the entire Earth, with detailed representation of the whole mantle down to 3,000 meters, by the end of the year. 


Via New Scientist