[dropcap]B[/dropcap]EIJING – Experts said that Tarim basin receives very little rainfall and that’s why known as one of the driest places on earth, but the vast amount of salt water concealed underneath could equal 10 times the water found in all five of the Great Lakes in the US.
Scientists had long suspected that a vast amount of melt water from nearby mountains had slipped beneath the basin, but the exact amount of water remained unknown.
Professor Li Yan, who led the study at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital said, “This is terrifying amount of water. Never before have people dared to imagine so much water under the sand. Our definition of desert may have to change.”
The discovery of the hidden ocean was made accidentally by Li’s team who were looking for “carbon sinks”. The team found that carbon dioxide was getting absorbed and disappearing into the basin but could understand why. So, they collected nearly 200 samples of underground water from different locations across the desert and measured the carbon dioxide.
This was then compared to the carbon dioxide present in melt water in order to calculate and determine how much water had flowed into the basin.
Professor Li said, “Our estimate is a conservative figure. The actual amount could be larger.” The team will now work with research teams around the world to see if other deserts have similar oceans under them.
According to the team’s calculations, the chance of water under these deserts is high because the amount of carbon these “oceans” potentially hold could be a trillion tonnes, which is same as the amount of “missing carbon” on the planet.