Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth, pales in comparison to the astonishingly high mountains found deep within our planet’s interior, according to the BBC. These enormous subterranean mountain ranges, known as ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZ), have left scientists scratching their heads over their origins.
Located at the core-mantle boundary inside Earth, approximately 1,800 miles deep, these ULVZs can reach heights of “4.5 times the height of Everest,” or over 24 miles, researchers informed the BBC. They remained concealed until seismic data from earthquakes and even nuclear explosions brought them to light.
Samantha Hansen, a geologist from the University of Alabama, told the BBC, “We found evidence for ULVZs kind of everywhere,” further stating that “if it’s big enough, we can see it.”
The Enigma Deepens
Scientists are considering various theories to explain the existence of these colossal structures, such as the possibility that they are remnants of ancient oceanic crusts pushed deep into Earth’s interior or sections of the mantle superheated by the planet’s scorching core.
Adding to the intrigue, these hidden mountains are often accompanied by another enigmatic deep-Earth feature: large low-shear-velocity provinces, or “blobs,” as scientists commonly refer to them. The BBC notes that these mountain ranges and blobs could provide crucial insights into the movements and interactions of tectonic plates as they transition from the Earth’s crust into the depths of the mantle.
Hansen and her team of scientists have been investigating these ULVZs using seismology stations situated in Antarctica. The southernmost continent serves as a fascinating location to study these concealed behemoth mountains, as it is far removed from any blobs or tectonic plates that have shifted or descended.
However, their presence in Antarctica suggests that these enormous peaks may exist across the globe, challenging the notion that these towering subterranean peaks were previously ancient ocean floors.
“Seismic investigations, such as ours, provide the highest resolution imaging of the interior structure of our planet,” Hansen stated earlier this year, adding that “we are finding that this structure is vastly more complicated than once thought.”