Huge hidden ocean discovered under Chinese basin

A satellite view of the Tarim basin, which lies in the same area as China's largest desert (NASA)

Chinese scientists have found what they believe is a massive hidden ocean hidden underneath a basin in the northwestern Xinjiang – one of the driest areas on earth, South China Morning Post reported.

The amount of salt water hidden underneath the Tarim basin could equal 10 times the amount of water found on all five on the Great Lakes in the U.S.

Scientists think that the water built up from melting snow trickling down from the mountains around the basin.

“This is a terrifying amount of water… Never before have people dared to imagine so much water under the sand,” said Li Yan, a professor who led the study at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital.

Our definition of desert may have to change,” he added.

While the basin is widely known to contain rich oil reserves, accessing them requires large amounts of water.

Like many scientific discoveries, Li’s team found the hidden ocean by accident.

“We were after carbon, not water,” he said.

In an effort to better understand climate change, Chinese scientists have been searching for certain regions where carbon dioxide is absorbed. These regions are known as “carbon sinks,” such as forests and oceans.

And a decade ago, Li’s team discovered large amounts of carbon dioxide disappearing without trace in Tarim, and set out to find what was happened.

Li said his team would collaborate with other research teams to find out if similar “oceans” could exist underneath other large deserts.

At over 900,000 square kilometers in area, the Tarim is the world’s largest landlocked basin. It is also home to China’s biggest desert of Taklimakan.

 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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