What Are Earth Layers Made Of?
|A modern view of Earth‘s interior layers.|
As a result of studies during the past century, geologists have a pretty clear sense of what the layers inside the Earth are made of. Let’s now look at the properties of individual layers in more detail (figure above a, b).
When you stand on the surface of the Earth, you are standing on top of its outermost layer, the crust. The crust is our home and the source of all our resources. How thick is this all important layer? Or, in other words, what is the depth to the crust-mantle boundary? An answer came from the studies of Andrija Mohorovicˇic´, a researcher working in Zagreb, Croatia. In 1909, he discovered that the velocity of earthquake waves suddenly increased at a depth of tens of kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface, and he suggested that this increase was caused by an abrupt change in the properties of rock. Later studies showed that this change can be found most everywhere around our planet, though it occurs at different depths in different locations. Speciﬁcally, it’s deeper beneath continents than beneath oceans. Geologists now consider the change to deﬁne the base of the crust, and they refer to it as the Moho in Mohorovicˇic´’s honour. The relatively shallow depth of the Moho (7 to 70 km, depending on location) as compared to the radius of the Earth (6,371 km) emphasizes that the crust is very thin indeed. In fact, the crust is only about 0.1% to 1.0% of the Earth’s radius, so if the Earth were the size of a balloon, the crust would be about the thickness of the balloon’s skin.