Download PDF Natural Radioactivity of the Crust and Mantle [short article]

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mantle | National Geographic Society

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Associated Data

Listen Release Forest Park for many items. The mantle accounts for the bulk of the Earth. The crust is composed of many different types of rocks that fall into three main categories: igneous , metamorphic and sedimentary. However, most of those rocks originated as either granite or basalt. The mantle beneath is made of peridotite. Bridgmanite, the most common mineral on Earth , is found in the deep mantle.

We didn't know the Earth had a crust until the early s. Then along came seismology, which brought us a new type of evidence from below: seismic velocity.


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Seismic velocity measures the speed at which earthquake waves propagate through the different materials i. With a few important exceptions, seismic velocity within the Earth tends to increase with depth. In , a paper by the seismologist Andrija Mohorovicic established a sudden change in seismic velocity -- a discontinuity of some sort -- about 50 kilometers deep in the Earth. Seismic waves bounce off it reflect and bend refract as they go through it, the same way that light behaves at the discontinuity between water and air.


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  • That discontinuity named the Mohorovicic discontinuity or "Moho" is the accepted boundary between the crust and mantle. Plates are thicker than the crust and consist of the crust plus the shallow mantle just beneath it. The lithospheric plates lie on a layer of softer, more plastic mantle rock called the asthenosphere "weak layer". The asthenosphere allows the plates to move slowly over it like a raft in thick mud. We know that the Earth's outer layer is made of two grand categories of rocks: basaltic and granitic.

    Basaltic rocks underlie the seafloors and granitic rocks make up the continents. We know that the seismic velocities of these rock types, as measured in the lab, match those seen in the crust down as far as the Moho. Therefore we're confident that the Moho marks a real change in rock chemistry. The Moho isn't a perfect boundary because some crustal rocks and mantle rocks can masquerade as the other. However, everyone who talks about the crust, whether in seismological or petrological terms, fortunately, means the same thing.

    Why the Earth's Crust Is So Important

    In general, then, there are two kinds of crust: oceanic crust basaltic and continental crust granitic. Oceanic crust covers about 60 percent of the Earth's surface. Oceanic crust is thin and young -- no more than about 20 km thick and no older than about million years. Everything older has been pulled underneath the continents by subduction. Visible light — which, like all electromagnetic radiation, travels in waves — includes wavelengths between about nanometers violet and about nanometers red. Radiation with wavelengths shorter than visible light includes gamma rays, X-rays and ultraviolet light.

    Longer-wavelength radiation includes infrared light, microwaves and radio waves. Read another version of this article at Science News. Journal: E. The sun may be setting on silicon. The first computer chips made from carbon nanotubes one pictured are here. Youth Climate Summit. Scientists and science communicators must do a better job of combatting fake news about climate change and climate engineering on YouTube, says one researcher.


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    Technically Fiction. Gravity Waves. Current Issue. Earth Chemistry. Rare blue diamonds form deep, deep, deep inside Earth.

    Oceanic crust

    Their recipe includes boron that may have ridden to great depths aboard a sinking tectonic plate. Carolyn Gramling. Sep 5, — am EST. Blue diamonds appear to form deep within the mantle. Readability Score: 7.

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