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Recently, researchers discovered 56 previously uncharted subglacial lakes located beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. Their discovery reveals that such lakes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet are much more common than previously thought, which is highly significant for research on climate change along with environmental change.

This discovery is noteworthy as the Greenland Ice Sheet covers an area roughly seven times the size of the UK and is thicker than three kilometres in some places; it currently plays an important role in rising global sea levels. Knowledge of these subglacial lakes allows researchers to better comprehend how water from them drains under the ice sheet and how this may influence the ice sheet’s likely response to rising temperatures. The research paper, entitled ‘Distribution and dynamics of Greenland subglacial lakes’, provides the first ice-sheet wide inventory of subglacial lakes located beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. As the lead author Jade Bowling mentions, ‘until now little was known about subglacial lake distribution and behaviour beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet’.

With this newly found discovery, researchers can better determine the influence of these subglacial lakes ‘on the wider subglacial hydrological system and ice-flow dynamics’, necessary knowledge to consider both presently and in the future as the climate temperature continues to rise at an alarmingly rapid rate. Dr. Stephen J. Livingstone, a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Sheffield, suggests that ‘these lakes could provide important targets for direct exploration to look for evidence of extreme life and to sample the sediments deposited in the lake that preserve a record of environmental change’.

Students interested in applying to Geography and Natural Sciences, especially those with particular interests in physical natural sciences such as earth, climate and environmental studies, may consider researching this discovery as well as others, considering their potential implications for climate and environmental change.

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