A massive reservoir of relatively fresh water stretching from Massachusetts to New Jersey has been discovered underneath the Atlantic Ocean.
A recent survey of the U.S. Northeast coast revealed that gigantic aquifer trapped in porous sediments below the salty ocean water. The underwater aquifer stretches out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf.
If found on the surface, the freshwater reservoir would create a lake that covers 15,000 square miles. The researchers claimed that it is the largest such formation found in the world, and there might be more.
Finding Freshwater Underneath The Atlantic Ocean
"We knew there was fresh water down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry," stated Chloe Gustafson, a PhD candidate at Columbia University and the lead author of the study that appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
According to the researchers, the first hint of an aquifer underneath the Atlantic Ocean surfaced in the '70s, when companies drilled the coastline for oil. Instead, they found fresh water.
Scientists, at the time, debated whether the fresh water came from isolated pockets or something bigger.
It was not until recently when the research team used electromagnetic imaging (the same technology used to look for oil in the sub-seafloor) that they truly discovered how massive the freshwater reservoir really is.
In 2015, study coauthors Kerry Key of Lamont-Doherty and Rob L. Evans of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent 10 days on the vessel Marcus G. Langseth to make measurements.
They found that the freshwater deposits are "more or less continuous," extending from the shoreline up to the shallow continental shelf. They begin at around 600 feet below the seafloor and end at about 1,200 feet, the analysis revealed.
The researchers also believe that the freshwater sediments span not just New Jersey and Massachusetts but also the intervening coasts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.
Source Of Freshwater
The researchers added that the newfound reservoir could one day provide fresh water in places that are now in danger of running out, like in the Saharan Africa. They believe that similar aquifers remain hidden and undiscovered underneath many other coasts across the globe.
"It could turn out to be an important resource in other parts of the world," added Gustafson.