Chinese scientists discover massive hidden ocean under Xinjiang's Tarim basin

31 July 2015

In a startling discovery, Chinese scientists have uncovered a massive hidden ocean just below the Tarim basin in northwestern Xinjiang China.

The region gets hardly any rain and is one of the driest places on earth.

The underground body or water below could hold an amount of water greater than in the five great lakes in the US.

Xinjiang is one of the driest and most uninhabitable places on earth.

The region is dominated by the Taklamakan, desert. It means the place one does not leave after entering. It is surrounded by mountains that include the Pamirs and the Himalayas.

The Xinjiang region also boasts the place on earth which is farthest from the sea and is called Dzoosotoyn Elisen Desert. Most of Xinijiang is dominated by the Tarim Basin.

Professor Li Yan, who headed the study at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, described the find as , 'terrifying amount of water'. According to Li the definition of a desert would change since there was so much water below.

Li's team made the discovery by accident while they were looking for carbon sinks, which are certain regions on earth where carbon dioxide could be absorbed.

The team had discovered that carbon dioxide was being absorbed into the basin but could not understand how.

The basin is known for its rich oil reserves, huge amounts of water are required to access.

Scientists had for a long time considered the possibility of melt water from high mountains nearby seeping under the basin, but the exact amount of water reserves there remained unknown.

Around 10 years ago, Li's team noted that large amounts of carbon dioxide were disappearing in Tarim, with no explanation over where it could be going.

In a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Li's team reported that there could be a a huge amount of water under earth's largest deserts, which served as carbon sinks as important as forests and oceans.

According to commentators, the biggest question now was whether similar ''oceans'' could also exist under other large deserts, such as Sahara.

According to Li, they would work with research teams around the world to find out the answer.

The probability of finding water under the deserts was high because the amount of carbon these ''oceans'' contained could reach a trillion tonnes, which matched the amount of ''missing carbon'' on the planet, according to Li's team's calculations.

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