Modern mermaids: New floats image the deep Earth



Scientists get a window into deep Earth structures by using a method called seismic tomography. Similar to computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain, seismic tomography uses delays in the arrival times of seismic P waves to make scans and three-dimensional images of the variations in seismic wave speed in the Earth's interior. Patterns in the delays indicate thermal or compositional anomalies in the Earth's mantle and core, such as those caused by sinking cold oceanic lithosphere or rising hot thermal plumes. A large number of observations of such delays are available for continental regions; the number of observations for the United States is especially high due to a dense deployment of stations currently being installed temporarily and moved across a large area as part of the USArray project, a branch of the U.S. National Science Foundation's EarthScope program. In contrast, no comparable sensor density has been available in the oceans