Researchers from the Canadian university have uncovered water that they estimate is around two billion years old.As the oldest water ever discovered on Earth, it could improve our understanding of our planet’s prehistoric atmosphere and the origins of life.
The prehistoric water was found at a depth of 3 km (1.86 miles) in Kidd Creek Mine, Timmins, Ontario. The research team, led by Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar and postdoctoral researcher Oliver Warr, presented their work at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco last week.
Researchers estimated the age of the water by calculating the amount of argon, neon, krypton, and xenon in the water. These gases accumulate in the water over time, Warr told Canada’s CBC News.According toa BBC News report, they estimated that there are about 11 million cubic kilometers (2.5 million cubic miles) of this water or more water than is contained in all the world’s rivers, swamps, and lakes.
“When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock,” Lollar told BBC News.“But in fact, it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These thingsare flowing at rates of liters per minute – the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated. It really pushed back our understanding of how old flowing water could be and so it really drove us to explore further. And we took advantage of the fact that the mine is continuing to explore deeper and deeper into the Earth.”
It was when they dug deeper that the researchers discovered the two-billion-year-old water. The water is up to eight times saltier than sea water.