A team of researchers from Canada has announced the discovery of the Earth’s highest latitude perennial spring, located in the polar desert of the Canadian High Arctic.
Dr Stephen Grasby from the University of Calgary and Geological Survey of Canada and his colleagues encountered this high-volume spring – dubbed the Ice River Spring – on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic. The discovery is detailed in a paper published in the journal Geology.
The Ice River Spring demonstrates that deep groundwater circulation through the cryosphere occurs, and can form gullies in a region of extreme low temperatures and with morphology remarkably similar to those on Mars.
This spring discharges at 300 m elevation from colluvium on a south-facing (21degrees incline) mountain slope. The unnamed mountain rises 800 m above sea level.
Detailed recordings show that this spring flows year-round, even during 24 hours of darkness in the winter months, when air temperatures are as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius.
Detailed geochemistry shows that the waters originate from the surface and circulate down as deep as 3 km before returning through thick permafrost as a spring.
This points to a much more active hydrogeological system in polar regions than previously thought possible, which is perhaps driven by glacial meltwater.
Another intriguing feature of the Ice River site is the remarkable similarity to mid-latitude gullies observed on Mars.
The discovery of these features on Mars has led to suggestions that recent groundwater discharge has occurred from confined aquifers.
Stephen E. Grasby et al. Deep groundwater circulation through the High Arctic cryosphere forms Mars-like gullies. Geology, published online June 09, 2014; doi: 10.1130/G35599.1
Source link: https://www.sci.news/geology/science-northernmost-perennial-spring-01997.html