Study of decades-old earthquake data reveals mountains hundreds of kilometers underground

Back in 1994, a massive earthquake happened in Bolivia. That earthquake occurred on June 9, 1994, and registered a massive 8.2 magnitude, and was so powerful that shocks were felt as far away as Canada. Earthquakes of that magnitude are very rare, and this one happened to be among the first to be measured with a modern seismic network.

That modern seismic network means that scientists were able to record the waves bouncing through the inside of our planet and use the waves to get an idea what the inner structure of the Earth is like. Those seismic waves are compared to how an ultrasound allows doctors to see inside the body.

Recently scientists looking at that data used signatures in those waves to examine the rigidity of the planet's core. Specifically, they looked for scattering as the waves transitioned between layers of the Earth's interior. The study revealed details of the boundaries inside the Earth. It turns out that there is a division between the more rigid lower layers of the mantle and upper layers that aren't under as much pressure.

The team determined that at the meeting point between the upper and lower parts of the mantle is a massive mountain range that puts surface features to shame. Scientists want to glean details of the underground mountain range, said to be hundreds of kilometers underground.

Don't expect any "Journey to the Center of the Earth" style lost creatures inhabiting the mountain range. The data does give the team insight into the fate of ancient tectonic plates that descended into the mantle and where ancient mantle material might reside.