You are on page 1of 5


Key Concepts
? à  knowledge abo t the st ct e of the inteio of the eath comes fom st dying how
diffeent types of seismic waves, ceated by eathq akes, tavel tho gh the eath.
? ×ath is composed of m ltiple layes, which can be defined eithe by composition o by
mechanical popeties.
? The c st, mantle, and coe ae defined by diffeences in composition.
? The lithosphee, aesthenosphee, mesosphee, and o te and inne coes ae defined by
diffeences in mechanical popeties.

The deepest places on the eath ae in So th Afica, whee mining companies have excavated 3.5
km into the eath to extact gold. No one has seen deepe into the eath than the So th Afican
mines beca se the heat and pess e felt at these depths pevents h mans fom going m ch
deepe. Yet the eath¶s adi s is 6,370 km

Isaac Newton was one of the fist scientists to theoize abo t the st ct e of the eath. Based on
his st dies of the foce of gavity, Newton calc lated the aveage density of the eath and fo nd
it to be moe than twice the density of the ocks nea the s face. Fom these es lts, Newton
ealized that the inteio of the eath had to be m ch dense than the s face ocks. His findings
excl ded the possibility of a caveno s, fiey ndewold inhabited by the dead, b t still left
many q estions nansweed. Whee does the dense mateial begin? How does the composition
diffe fom s face ocks? Volcanic vents like MT. Kenya occasionally bing p pieces of the
eath fom as deep as 150 km, b t these ocks ae ae, and we have little hope of taking J les
Vene¶s Jo ney to the Cente of the ×ath.

Instead, m ch of o  knowledge abo t the intenal st ct e of the eath comes fom emote
obsevations - specifically, fom obsevations of eathq akes. ×athq akes can be extemely
dest ctive fo h mans, b t they povide a wealth of infomation abo t the eath¶s inteio. This
is beca se evey eathq ake sends o t an aay of seismic waves in all diections, simila to the
way that thowing a stone into a pond sends o t waves tho gh the wate. Ãbseving the
behavio  of these seismic waves as they tavel tho gh the eath gives s insight into the
mateials the waves move tho gh
   An eathq ake occ s when ocks in a fa lt zone s ddenly slip past each othe,
eleasing stess that has b ilt p ove time. The slippage eleases seismic enegy, which is
dissipated tho gh two kinds of waves, P-waves and S- waves. The distinction between these two
waves is easy to pict e with a stetched-o t slinky. If yo p sh on one end of a slinky, a
compession wave passes tho gh the slinky paallel to its length. If instead yo move one end of
the slinky p and down apidly, a "ipple" wave moves tho gh the slinky. The compession
waves ae P- waves, and the ipple waves ae S-waves. Tho gh both kinds of waves efact, o
bend, when they coss a bo nday into a diffeent mateial, these two types of waves behave
diffeently depending on the composition of the mateial they ae passing tho gh. Ãne of the
biggest diffeences is that S-waves cannot tavel tho gh liq ids wheeas P- waves can. We feel
the aival of the P- and S-waves at a given location as a go nd-shaking eathq ake.
If the eath wee the same composition all the way tho gh its inteio, seismic waves wo ld
adiate o twad fom thei so ce (an eathq ake) and behave exactly as othe waves behave -
taking longe to tavel f the and dying o t in velocity and stength with distance, a pocess
called atten ation. Given Newton's obsevations, if we ass me that eath's density inceases
evenly with depth beca se of the ovelying pess e, wave velocity will also incease with depth
and the waves will contin o sly efact, taveling along c ved paths back towads the s face.
By the ealy 1900s, when seismogaphs wee installed woldwide, it q ickly became clea that
the eath co ld not possibly be so simple. As ealy as 132 C×, the Chinese had b ilt inst ments
to meas e the go nd shaking associated with eathq akes. The fist moden seismogaphs,
howeve, ween¶t b ilt ntil the 1880s in Japan by Bitish seismologists to ecod local
eathq akes. It wasn¶t long befoe those seismologists ecognized that they wee also ecoding
eathq akes occ ing tho sands of kilometes away.

Ãne of the fist impotant obsevations on the eath's st ct e was made by Andija
Mohoovicic, a Coatian seismologist. He noticed that P-waves meas ed moe than 200 km
away fom an eathq ake's epicente aived with highe velocities than those within a 200 km
adi s. Altho gh these es lts an co nte to the concept of atten ation, they co ld be explained
if the waves that aived with faste velocities taveled tho gh a medi m that allowed them to
speed p. In 1909, º     defined the fist majo bo nday within the eath¶s inteio - the
bo nday between the c st, which foms the s face of the eath, and a dense laye below,
called the  . Seismic waves tavel faste in the mantle than they do in the c st beca se it is
composed of dense mateial. Th s, stations f the away fom the so ce of an eathq ake
eceived waves that had made pat of thei jo ney tho gh the dense ocks of the mantle. The
waves that eached the close stations stayed within the c st the entie time. Altho gh the
official name of the c st- mantle bo nday is the Mohoovicic discontin ity, in hono of its
discovee, it is s ally called the º .

Anothe obsevation made by seismologists was the fact that P-waves die o t abo t 105 degees
away fom an eathq ake, then eappea abo t 140 degees away, aiving m ch late than
expected. This egion that lacks P-waves is called the P-wave shadow zone. S- waves, on the
othe hand, die o t completely ao nd 105 degees fom the eathq ake. Remembe that S-
waves ae nable to tavel tho gh liq id. The S-wave shadow zone indicates that thee is a
liq id laye deep within the eath that stops all S-waves b t not the P-waves. In 1914, Beno
G tenbeg, a Geman seismologist, sed these shadow zones to calc late the size of anothe
laye inside of the eath, called the  . He defined a shap coe-mantle bo nday at a depth of
2,900 km, whee P-waves wee efacted and slowed and S-waves wee stopped. The P-wave
and S- wave shadow zones.


Ãn the basis of these and othe obsevations, geophysicists have ceated a coss-section of the
eath. The layes ae highlighted by mechanical bo ndaies, which ae defined on the basis of
how mateials act, not on thei composition.
Thee ae two majo types of c st: c st that makes p the ocean floos and c st that makes p
the continents
? à  is composed entiely of basalt ext ded at mid-ocean idges, es lting in a
thin (~ 5 km), elatively dense c st (~3.0 g/cm3).
? c    is made pimaily of less dense ock s ch as ganite (~2.7 g/ cm3). It
is m ch thicke than oceanic c st, anging fom 15 to 70 km.

This pat of the eath is abo t 1,800 miles (2,900 km) below the eath's s face. The coe is a
dense ball of the elements ion and nickel. It is divided into two layes,
? the inne coe and
? à te coe.
The inne coe - the cente of eath - is solid and abo t 780 miles (1,250 km ) thick. The o te
coe is so hot that the metal is always molten, b t the inne coe pess es ae so geat that it
cannot melt, even tho gh tempeat es thee each 6700ºF (3700ºC). The o te coe is abo t
1,370 miles (2,200 km) thick. Beca se the eath otates, the o te coe spins ao nd the inne
coe and that ca ses the eath's magnetism. What does the coe consist of? Inne coe: It is
3,200 - 3,960 miles (5,150-6,370 km) below the eath's s face and mainly consists of ion,
nickel and some lighte elements (pobably s lph , cabon, oxygen, silicon and potassi m.
The tempeat e in the inne coe is abo t 9032 - 10832 ºF (5000-6000 ºC). Beca se of the
high pess e, the coe is solid. The aveage density of the coe is abo t 15g/cm³. Ã te coe:
The o te coe is at 1,800 - 3,200 miles (2,890-5,150 km) below the eath's s face.

The o te coe is liq id and mainly consists of ion, some nickel and abo t 10% s lph  and
oxygen. The tempeat e in the o te coe is abo t 7200 - 9032 ºF (4000-5000ºC). The
density of the o te coe is between the 10g/cm³ and 12,3g/cm³. The o te coe and inne
coe togethe ca se the eath's magnetism.

The laye above the coe is the mantle. It begins abo t 6 miles (10 km) below the oceanic c st
and abo t 19 miles (30 km) below the continental c st (see The C st). The f nction of the
mantle is to sepaate the inne mantle and the o te mantle. It is abo t 1,800 miles(2,900 km)
thick and makes p nealy 80 pecent of the ×ath's total vol me. Science deals with the st ct e
of the mantle in two diffeent ways. Ãne way is based on its chemical const ction (the mateial),
the othe on the way layes steam o move


The inne mantle can be fo nd between 190 miles (300 km) an 1,800 miles (2,890 km) below
the eath¶s s face. The aveage tempeat e is 5400 ºF (3000ºC), nevetheless the ock is solid
beca se of the high pess es. The inne mantle fo the biggest pat pobably consists of
s lphides and oxides of silicon and magnesi m. The density is between 4.3g/cm³ and 5.4g/ cm³.

The o te mantle is a lot thinne than the inne mantle. It can be fo nd between 7 miles (10 km)
and 190 miles (300 km) below the s face of the eath. Yo can divide the o te mantle into two
diffeent layes. The bottom laye is to gh liq id ock and pobably consists of silicates of ion
and magnesi m. The tempeat e in this pat is between 2520 ºF (1400ºC) and 5400 º F (3000ºC)
and the density is between 3.4g/cm³ and 4.3g/cm³. The ppe laye of the o te mantle consists
of the same mateial b t is stiffe beca se of its lowe tempeat e.


Fom this pespective, yo look at the o te mantle and the c st togethe. Hee we make a
diffeence in asthenosphee and lithosphee. Asthenosphee: The to gh liq id pat of the o te
mantle. Lithosphee: The stiffe pat of the o te mantle and the c st. The lithosphee 'floats' on
the asthenosphee, like ice on wate.

The c st coves the mantle and is the eath's had o te shell, the s face on which we ae
living. Compaed to the othe layes the c st is m ch thinne. It floats pon the softe, dense
mantle. The c st is made p of solid mateial b t this mateial is not the same eveywhee.
Thee is an à and a c   . The fist one is abo t 4-7 miles (6-11 km)
thick and mainly consists of heavy ocks, like basalt. The Continental c st is thicke than the
Ãceanic c st, abo t 19 miles (30 km) thick. It is mainly made p of light mateial like ganite.
The ocks of the oceanic c st ae vey yo ng compaed with the ocks of the continental c st.
The ocks of the oceanic c st ae not olde than 200 million yeas. The mateial of which the
oceanic c st consists is fo the geate pat tholeiitic basalt (this is basalt witho t olivine). Basalt
has a dak, fine and gitty volcanic st ct e. It is fomed o t of vey liq id lava, which cools off
q ickly. The gains ae so small that they ae only visible nde a micoscope. The aveage
density of the oceanic c st is 3g/cm³.