The melt produced in the boundary likely then flows back upward, returning to minerals that can hold the water, Schmandt said, adding that this mechanism allows the transition zone to be a stable water reservoir.
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"[The study] provides critical experimental support for the important role that the transition zone plays in controlling the melting behavior and flux of hydrogen in the deep Earth," Graham Pearson, a mantle geochemist at the University of Alberta, who wasn't involved in the work, told Live Science in an email.
Anna Kelbert, a geophysicist at Oregon State University who also wasn't involved in the study, notes that scientists have previously used numerous approaches to look for evidence of Earth's interior water reservoir, but this is the first time researchers have searched for clues of the reservoir by focusing on the potential water-induced melting at the bottom of the transition zone. "It provides an important multidisciplinary perspective on this problem," Kelbert said. "It has important implications on our understanding of the behavior of subducting slabs deep in the mantle, and on our understanding of overall water budget/distribution in the Earth."