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Dozens of lakes found hidden under Greenland ice sheet

Scientists have discovered dozens of subglacial lakes buried beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet.

In a recent study published in Nature Communications, 56 lakes were discovered under the sheet, bringing the total number discovered to 60.

Each lake ranges from 0.2km to 5.9km in length, and were discovered using either airborne radio echo-sounding, which provides pictures of the ice sheet’s bed, or from ice-surface elevation changes.

Despite the apparently vast results, 60 lakes pales in comparison to the more than 400 subglacial lakes hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

They are also quite small as Lake Vostok – the Antarctic’s largest subglacial lake – is 250km long.

The lakes are created in a variety of ways, whether through heat generated from the Earth, from moving ice, or the pressure from ice on the surface.

The findings under Greenland’s sheet, in particular, will help researchers learn more about the subglacial hydrological system, and complex microorganisms that have managed to adapt to an extreme environment.

Speaking to Newsweek, study co-author Andrew Sole said that while he was not concerned about the lakes in terms of climate change, they could still contribute to rising sea levels.

Subglacial lakes are capable of accumulating large quantities of meltwater on the surface, which could affect how it drains into the ocean.

He said: “In addition, sufficiently large changes in the amount of ice and meltwater that is discharged from the ice sheet into the north Atlantic are thought to be able to impact ocean circulation and regional climatic conditions.”

A study published last week in Science Advances said the Greenland ice sheet could melt within the next 1,000 years, causing sea levels to rise by 7m (23ft).

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