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Researchers Discover Huge Canyon Under Greenland’s Ice Sheet [VIDEO]

Update Date: Aug 30, 2013 03:21 PM EDT
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In an accidental find, researchers identified a huge canyon underneath Greenland's thick ice sheet. This canyon is roughly twice as long as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The newly discovered canyon is believed to be 800km or 497 miles long and 800m or half mile deep. It is encased under the ice and carved out by a great river.

"With satellite images instantly available on a mobile phone we could assume that the Earth has been fully mapped, but there's clearly a lot left to discover. We're incredibly excited about this - it really is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery to find something on this scale," the lead author, Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol University said according to BBC News.

The researchers came across the canyon as they were studying climate changes in the ice sheet. The researchers were interested in finding out how global warming will affect the melting of the ice sheet. Over the past years, central Greenland was 500m or 0.3 miles above sea level. Now, central Greenland is 200m or 0.1 miles above sea level, a drastic change. Upon doing their research, the team used radar to bounce off signals from the bedrock beneath the ice sheet, which is currently two miles thick. By using certain frequencies, the researchers knew that the ice sheet would be transparent to radio waves. With the help of previous research from NASA and from research out of the United Kingdom and Germany, the team found the canyon.

 "The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets hide a lot. It's pretty surprising to find this canyon. Greenland isn't that big for a canyon of that size, and for it to survive in its pre-glacial form after successive glaciations is quite something," Professor David Vaughan from British Antarctic Survey said. "There's likely be some sort of bacteria down there - whether it's viable is a different matter."

The researchers believe that the canyon existed before the ice sheet developed. They also theorized that parts of the canyon might have been visible 100,000 years ago. The canyon currently runs through the center of Greenland and up to the northern coastline. It runs "downhill" and the water from the ice sheet trickles out slowly by the northern end.

This new find is extremely exciting. The canyon is believed to be one of the largest ones in the world. The report was published in Science.

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