New geochemical tool reveals origin of Earth's nitrogen

Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere, and is the primary component of the air we breathe. Nitrogen is also found in rocks, including those tucked deep within the planet's interior. Until now, it was difficult to distinguish between nitrogen sources coming from air and those coming from inside the Earth's mantle when measuring gases from volcanoes.

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and their colleagues used a new geochemical tool to reveal that nitrogen in the mantle has most likely been there since our planet initially formed which may also prove useful as a way to monitor the activity of volcanoes.



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