What’s Hiding Under Greenland’s Ice?

A secret that could turn the island into one of the world’s richest countries

Sajjad Choudhury

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Ice melting off the coast of Greenland
Photo by Tina Rolf on Unsplash

GGreenland is the largest island in the world and home to around 56,000 people. But it’s also home to something else; a large body of ice. 80% of the country is covered by a giant ice sheet, second only to Antarctica. For centuries, scientists have been fascinated by what lies beneath Greenland’s ice, but with an average thickness of over 1.5km, its secrets have remained a mystery.

But thanks to global warming, the scramble for Greenland’s treasures has already begun.

Much of Greenland is Actually Below Sea Level

Although Greenland is on the same latitude as some of the coldest cities in the world, the temperatures on its southern tip are, in fact, relatively mild, even in winter.

That’s all thanks to the Gulf Stream, the natural currents that send warmer temperatures toward Europe. But the Gulf Stream is sensitive to climate change, and for a fragile ecosystem like Greenland, that can mean trouble.

But it's the interior of Greenland that is interesting. Surrounded by mountains on all sides and covered in ice that’s compressed over millions of years, its lowest point is, in fact, 1,000 metres below sea level!

Using thermal imaging, scientists discovered that this region is hiding the longest canyon in the world, stretching more than 750km across the landscape.

It was likely an ancient canyon created, not by ice, but by a massive body of water, perhaps the greatest river the world had ever seen. And there is a likelihood that this river is still present today. According to scientists at Hokkaido University’s Institute of Low-Temperature Science:

“The results are consistent with a long subglacial river,” Chambers says, “but considerable uncertainty remains. For example, we don’t know how much water, if any, is available to flow along the valley, and if it does indeed exit at Petermann Fjord or is refrozen, or escapes the valley, along the way.”

While we don’t know what volume of water flows through this subglacial river, the continual melting of the ice sheet could bring disaster…

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Sajjad Choudhury

Product Operations Lead @ Onfido | I create relationship wellbeing content, digital products and run an IG page. Check it out - https://linktr.ee/saish_coaching