Feeds

Revealed: HUNGRY frosty Arctic cleft that could eat 2 Grand Canyons

...well, almost. Massive chasm found 1.6km beneath Greenland ice sheet

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A huge mega-canyon, nearly double the length of America's Grand Canyon, has been discovered beneath a mile of ice in Greenland.

The canyon in a 3-D visualisation of the Greenland bedrock for the northern half of the island, looking north

The canyon looks like a winding river channel and is at least 750km (466 miles) long, making it longer than the famous tourist spot (which is a comparatively paltry 446km, or 277 miles) and is as deep in places at 800m (2,600ft).

"One might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped," said Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol and lead author of the study. "Our research shows there's still a lot left to discover."

Boffins used thousands of kilometres of airborne radar data collected by NASA and researchers from the UK and Germany over several decades to map the landscape lying under Greenland's ice sheet. A large portion of the data came from the space agency's Operation Icebridge, a six-year mission that is the largest airborne survey of the Earth's polar ice ever flown.

Simple radio waves can map the bedrock by travelling at frequencies known to travel through ice. The amount of time it takes the waves to traverse the ice and then bounce back off the rock below tells the scientists how deep the canyon is.

"Two things helped lead to this discovery. It was the enormous amount of data collected by IceBridge and the work of combining it with other datasets into a Greenland-wide compilation of all existing data that makes this feature appear in front of our eyes," said Michael Studinger, Operation IceBridge project scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The newly discovered ravine could play an important part in transporting subglacial meltwater from the valley-bed to the edge of the ice sheet and ultimately back to the ocean. Professor David Vaughan of the EU programme ice2sea, which helped fund the research, said the find could help boffins understand the region better.

"This area’s ice sheet contributes to sea level rise and this work can help us put current changes in context," he said.

The full study, "Paleofluvial Mega-Canyon Beneath the Central Greenland Ice Sheet", was published in the journal Science. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.