Greenland, the perpetually frozen winter landscape, was found housing a massive reservoir of melt water covering an area of 27,000 square miles, University of Utah researchers revealed.
The discovery came as quite a big surprise as temperatures in this region often hover around -14ºCelsius. The gigantic aquifer was found when scientists were drilling for core samples in 2011. On two of the four drilling expeditions, liquid water began pouring when the drilling equipments were hauled up, despite temperatures being -20ºCelsius at that time.
Liquid water was discovered at a depth of 33 feet in the first drill and 82 feet in the second. The reservoir is known as a “perennial firn aquifer” because water persists within the layers of snow and ice that don’t melt for at least one season. The new discovery can help researchers better understand how ice and snow melt contribute to rising sea levels.
The global mean sea level has risen by 4 to 8 inches over the past century, according to National Geographic. Since the 1990s, Earth oceans have been rising fast since 1980s, almost double than in the preceding 80 years.
Three factors contribute to higher sea levels – thermal expansion, melting ice caps and glaciers and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica.
Between 1992 and 2001, the Greenland ice sheet lost 34 billion tons of ice per year, BBC noted. That amount increased to 215 billion tons between 2002 and 2011. The new study of Greenland’s massive aquifer suggests that a significant amount of this melt is still being stored within the Greenland ice sheet and, if allowed to escape, could contribute greatly to global sea level rise.