A massive ocean is hiding under a Northwest China desert
Scientists have recently figured out what has been acting as a carbon sink, a reservoir that keeps carbon out of the atmosphere, for years. There is an ocean larger than all five North American Great Lakes combined underneath Xinjiang's Tarim basin. The Tarim basin is one of the world's largest landlocked areas and is home to a large oil reserve.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Professor Li Yan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in Urumqi says, "This is a terrifying amount of water. Never before have people dared to imagine so much water under the sand. Our definition of a desert may have to change.”
Yan's team has had suspicions of the ocean's existence, as ten years ago they noticed large amounts of carbon dioxide disappearing without a trace. This new body of water can act like a reserve for carbon much like forests and the world's oceans. By taking deep underground water samples, the team has measured different levels of carbon dioxide throughout the basin.
The water underneath the basin is too salty and contains too much carbon dioxide to be used for drinking or agriculture purposes. Yan admits it would be like "opening a can of Coke into the atmosphere."
The next step is to investigate whether other oceans such as this could exist in more arid zones of the world, such as the Sahara.
FACTS ABOUT CARBON SINKS
Three major examples of carbon sinks are plants, oceans, and soil.
Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS, is a process in which carbon dioxide produced by factories or burning fossil fuels is collected and stored away from its the source in the deep ocean, in mineral compounds, or hidden underground in geological formations.
The main imbalance of global warming occurs when more carbon dioxide is produced than can be cleansed from the atmosphere naturally through carbon sinks, which leads to a temperature increase.
Cover image: Wikimedia Commons