From a hidden network of subway rivers in Antarctica to a diamond factory near the Earth’s crust; these were last year’s greatest discoveries.
After a busy year of climbing the planet’s highest peaks, and scouring the deepest ocean trenches, scientists have managed to uncover some of the most impressive secrets about our planet. From a hidden network of subway rivers in Antarctica to disturbing new discoveries about the San Andreas Fault. It’s clear that there’s still a lot more to know about the planet we call home, but while that’s happening, here are the 8 most amazing discoveries on Earth that were revealed during 2022.
The Most Amazing Discoveries on Earth
Antarctic River under the Ice
Scientists discovered a 300-mile-long river, just like the Thames River in England, running under the Antarctic ice sheet. This subway waterway was found to drain a region as large as Germany and France combined, using ground penetrating radar. This discovery of the hidden meltwater drainage system could be the missing link that explains how Antarctica’s ice is melting, according to scientists.
The Most Massive Solar Storm
Thanks to pieces of ancient rocks, a solar storm that was even 10 times larger than the Carrington event was discovered. Rays of radioactive versions of beryllium, chlorine, and carbon in rocks from Greenland revealed that a proton storm hit the Earth’s magnetosphere about 2,600 years ago, around 660 B.C., suggesting that three other large proton storms may also have occurred in the last millennia.
Diamond Factory near Earth’s Core
Two giant patches of rock beneath Africa and the Pacific may be driving diamond production at the boundary between the Earth’s core and mantle. At this point where the core meets the mantle, liquid iron meets solid rock at extreme temperatures and pressures, mixing these conditions with water locked in the mantle rocks can drive chemical synthesis, such as diamond formation.
The 4-Billion-Year-Old Crust of the Earth
Scientists found a 4-billion-year-old piece of Earth’s crust not far from where Earth’s oldest minerals were found in Australia’s Jack Hills. This ancient rock covers a region of about 100,000 square kilometers. Crusts of approximately the same age can be found throughout the Earth, indicating that a transition possibly occurred on Earth around that time.
Huge Hydrothermal Vents in the Ocean
While piloting a remote-controlled vehicle a few miles off Mexico, scientists discovered a region of large, 12-meter-high, candelabra-like hydrothermal vents on the seafloor just 2.5 kilometers below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. These vents spew mineral-rich water near 437°C and are part of the Eastern Pacific Ridge, a series of submarine volcanoes stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Antarctica.
[Photo: National Science Foundation]
An Ancient Source of Oxygen
An ancient source of oxygen was discovered this year that may have fueled the emergence of primitive life on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago. The combination of boiling water and seismic activity would have generated the oxygen necessary for some of the earliest forms of life on Earth, such as extremophiles and archaea. This source of oxygen would have preceded photosynthesis, which is the current dominant source of oxygen on the planet.
The Mountain-Sized Rock beneath Japan
This rock, called the Kumano Pluton beneath Japan, could be the cause of seismic activity in the region, located a few kilometers beneath the crust of the Eurasian continental plate. In this area, the Philippine plate dips under the Eurasian plate and Pluto could be changing the angle of the dip.
The Most Powerful Ray
According to researchers, this jet that shot out into space may be the most powerful ever detected, as it first made detectors sting above a cloud in Oklahoma in 2018. This year scientists analyzed the jet’s radio wave emissions with radar and satellite data and found that the jet shook up a large amount of ionospheric energy. The charged particle face, which separates Earth’s upper atmosphere from space, produced 60 times more energy than normal lightning.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera