Scientists discover massive underground river 13,000 feet beneath the Amazon

mongabay.com
August 25, 2011





Researchers at Brazil's National Observatory have discovered evidence of a massive underground river flowing deep beneath the Amazon River, reports the AFP.

Presenting this week at the 12th International Congress of the Brazilian Geophysical Society in Rio de Janeiro, Elizabeth Tavares Pimentel reported the existence of a 6,000-kilometer-long (3,700-mile) river flowing some 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) under the Amazon.

Like the Amazon, the river flows west to east, but is considerably wider (200-400 kilometers) and moves at only a fraction of the speed of the giant surface river. The hidden river — dubbed the Hamza after Pimentel's supervisor Valiya Hamza — discharges into the Atlantic deep underground.

"It is likely that this river is responsible for the low level of salinity in the waters around the mouth of the Amazon," said a statement released by the National Observatory.

"The Amazon region has two discharge fluid systems: the surface drainage [through] the Amazon River... and the flow of groundwater through the deep sedimentary layers."



Pimentel's research is based on analysis of 241 oil wells drilled by state oil company Petrobras in the 1970s and 1980s. The study area covers the sedimentary basins of Acre, Solimões, Amazonas, Marajó and Barreirinhas.

The Amazon is Earth's largest river — every day up to 17 billion metric tons of water flow into the Atlantic Ocean. For reference, the Amazon discharges enough fresh water daily into the Atlantic to supply New York City’s freshwater needs for nine years. The force of the current causes Amazon River water to continue flowing 125 miles out to sea before mixing with Atlantic salt water. Early sailors could drink fresh water out of the ocean before sighting the South American continent.

Update
(Aug 27) Richard Black of BBC News is reporting that the "river" is "not a river in the conventional sense."

    The researchers involved told BBC News that water was moving through porous rock at speeds measured in cm, or inches, per year - not flowing.

    Another Brazilian expert said the groundwater was known to be very salty.
Professor Hamza, who conducted the original analysis with Elizabeth Tavares Pimentel, said they "used the term 'river' in a more generic sense than the popular notion."












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mongabay.com (August 25, 2011).

Scientists discover massive underground river 13,000 feet beneath the Amazon.

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