Ancient river system found under Greenland's ice sheet

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Ancient River System Found Under Greenland's Ice Sheet

An ancient network of channels which may have taken up to 2.3 million years to form has been found under the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland.

According to a press release issued by the University of Bristol in the U.K., a team of researchers made the discovery by analyzing data collected with ice-penetrating radar.

What they found was a drainage network extending throughout a basin estimated to cover more than 173,000 square miles, accounting "for about 20% of the total land area of Greenland."

The size has been compared to that of the Ohio River Basin.

While most of the surrounding terrain appears to be fairly even, the basin's mountainous eastern side features gashes that are up to 7 miles wide and 4,500 feet deep, notes Gizmodo.

Interestingly, the team believes the system was created by ancient rivers even before Greenland's ice sheet developed about 3.5 million years ago.

The hope is that this research adds to the scientific community's understanding of preglacial landscapes and how they evolve over time.

RELATED: Learn more about Greenland's melting ice:

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Greenland's melting ice
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Greenland's melting ice
Children play amid icebergs on the beach in Nuuk, Greenland, June 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alister Doyle TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Wildflowers bloom on a hill overlooking the Narsarsuaq glacier in southern Greenland July 25, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
An iceberg floats near a harbour in the town of Kulusuk, east Greenland August 1, 2009. Picture taken August 1. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND TRAVEL ENVIRONMENT)
Icebergs float in the calm waters of a fjord, south of Tasiilaq in eastern Greenland August 4, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT)
Icebergs float in a fjord near the south Greenland town of Narsaq July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A field of wildflowers blooms on a hill outside in Tasiilaq August 4, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND)
Clothes hang out to dry in the town of Ilulissat in western Greenland in this photo taken May 14, 2007. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND)
Picture shows a fjord behind the town of Ilulissat in Greenland August 16, 2007, during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the region. Merkel and Gabriel are on a two day visit to Greenland to get information on consequences of global warming. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler/Pool (GREENLAND)
Houses are illuminated by the early morning sun in the town of Tasiilaq in eastern Greenland August 4, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT)
The Greenland ice cap is formed into mounds and ridges near the town of Kulusuk August 2, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT)
A large iceberg floats in Eriks Fjord near the town of Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland July 26, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
A colony of Black-legged Kittiwake seagulls tend to their chicks on a cliff near the south Greenland town of Narsaq July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT)
Wildflowers bloom on a hill overlooking a fjord filled with icebergs near the south Greenland town of Narsaq July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A large iceberg floats in Eriks Fjord near the town of Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland July 26, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Kulusuk in eastern Greenland August 2, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT)
A large iceberg melts into jagged edges as it floats in Eriks Fjord near the town of Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland July 26, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
Houses are painted in bright colors in the town of Ilulissat in western Greenland as seen in this photo taken May 15, 2007. REUTERS/BOB STRONG (GREENLAND) Also see image: GF1DVYVPIWAA
Icebergs are reflected in the waters of Eriks Fjord near the town of Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland July 26, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
An iceberg is pictured in Ilulissat fjord in Greenland August 16, 2007, during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the region. Merkel and Gabriel are on a two day visit to Greenland to get information on consequences of global warming. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler/Pool (GREENLAND)
A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk October 17, 2012. By a remote fjord where icebergs float in silence and hunters stalk reindeer, plans are being drawn up for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by four percent at a stroke - by hiring Chinese workers. The $2.3-billion project by the small, British company London Mining Plc would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. It would supply China with much needed iron for the steel its economy. With global warming thawing its Arctic sea lanes, and global industry eyeing minerals under this barren island a quarter the size of the United States, the 57,000 Greenlanders are wrestling with opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule. Yet a scramble for Greenland already may be under way, in which some see China trying to exploit the icebound territory as a staging ground in a global battle for Arctic resources and strategic control of new shipping routes. Picture taken October 17, 2012. To match Insight GREENLAND/ REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT)
Icebergs are reflected in the calm waters at the mouth of the Jakobshavn ice fjord near Ilulissat in Greenland in this photo taken May 15, 2007. New York, Boston and other cities on North America's northeast coast could face a rise in sea level this century that would exceed forecasts for the rest of the planet if Greenland's ice sheet keeps melting as fast as it is now, researchers said May 27, 2009. Sea levels off the northeast coast of North America could rise by 12 to 20 inches more than other coastal areas if the Greenland glacier-melt continues to accelerate at its present pace, the researchers reported. REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files (GREENLAND ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
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