Using radar technology, scientists have been able to peer 500m beneath the ice of Greenland to determine there may be a “dark river” flowing for 995 miles (1,600km) from central Greenland to the northern coast. Planes flying over the country have previously noted miles of bedrock which look suspiciously like a river channel, but now scientists are adamant a subterranean river lies beneath the ice. Scientists from then Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, created simulations to determine how the river came to be.
They believe that as the ice melted, it made its way through the channel beneath the kilometres worth of ice.
Not only is ice melting from the top, but experts say there is a hotspot beneath the surface which is also contributing.
A study published at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) read: “The Greenland ice sheet may be hiding important geographical features at its base that have the potential to affect ice sheet simulations to an unknown degree.
“A glimpse of such hidden features beneath the ice can be seen when a train of dips in the bedrock are connected from Petermann Fjord inwards.”
Christopher Chambers, a researcher at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, said: “Eventually if you get it deep enough — minus 500 meters [1,640 feet] — the water is now flowing the entire length along the valley and then exiting at Petermann Fjord.”
The ice covering Greenland is up to three kilometres thick in certain places, covering an area seven times the amount of the UK.
If all of this ice were to melt, sea levels could rise by a staggering 7.4 metres around the planet, which would be catastrophic, dislodging millions of people from their homes.
A joint study from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), which analysed satellite date to determine the loss of ice on Greenland, found just how quickly ice is melting as a result of climate change.
The research analysed data from 26 satellites to paint a clear picture of Greenland’s melting ice, and found that by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by up to five inches by the end of the century as a staggering 234 billion tons of ice melts per year.
NASA said: “Increasing rates of global warming have accelerated Greenland’s ice mass loss from 25 billion tons per year in the 1990s to a current average of 234 billion tons per year.
“This means that Greenland’s ice is melting on average seven times faster today than it was at the beginning of the study period.”