Greenland Mega-Canyon Grander than the Grand Canyon


For everyone who thinks there’s nothing new to know about or explore on the Earth, and long to head for other planets, news from Greenland proves that there are still a few surprises left right here. A massive mega-canyon, one bigger than the Grand Canyon, has been discovered beneath Greenland’s ice sheet, according to the journal Science. It might very well prove to be grander than Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

Just how large is the Greenland canyon? 

With thick ice still covering the canyon, people who are alive today might never see what the canyon looks like underneath Greenland’s ice sheet, unless global warming takes its toll as some scientists predict.

However, the canyon’s size can be approximately measured, and it is, in some areas, around 460 miles, which makes it longer than the Grand Canyon. It is 2,600 feet deep at some points, which is comparable to the Grand Canyon’s deepest points. Also, the mega-canyon might connect up with the ocean at one end of it.

According to scientists, the canyon was a part of Greenland’s landscape long before the ice sheet formed a few million years ago. It’s truly remarkable that a discovery of this magnitude can still be made on our planet, and the researchers who discovered it are amazed by the canyon’s immense size.

Expressing his amazement, the lead author of the study, Jonathan Bamber — who is a professor at Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences — stated in a press release:

With Google Streetview available for many cities around the world and digital maps for everything from population density to happiness one might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped. Our research shows there’s still a lot left to discover.”

If it’s under Greenland’s ice sheet, how did scientists measure it?

Undetectable by using the naked eye, the way scientists measured the size of Greenland’s mega-canyon is by analyzing decades of radar data taken from the air by NASA as well as researchers from Germany and the UK.

The data the team collected came from radio waves. The radio waves were bounced off of the ancient bedrock beneath Greenland’s ice sheet. The frequency of the radio waves that were used does not detect ice.

The team believes that the end of the mega-canyon which leads to the ocean may have once carried melt water from the ice to the coast of Greenland, before the ice sheet grew too thick. The scientists think that the canyon’s melt water flow might be helpful in predicting what might happen in other examples which are similar.

Ice2sea coordinator David Vaughan, at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, stated about Greenland’s mega-canyon:

A discovery of this nature shows that the Earth has not yet given up all its secrets. A 750 kilometer canyon preserved under the ice for millions of years is a breathtaking find in itself, but this research is also important in furthering our understanding of Greenland’s past. This area’s ice sheet contributes to sea level rise and this work can help us put current changes in context.”

The mega-canyon recently discovered under Greenland’s ice sheet might be larger than even Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but people alive today might not ever know exactly how “grand” it is, unless the ice sheet covering it melts.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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