Finding Fossil Aquifers on EarthOctober 5th, 2011 by Sarah Pryputniewicz
NASA technology is being used to find fossil aquifers underneath Earth’s driest deserts. This technology was developed to explore underneath the surface of Mars, to help determine if there might be water on the red planet. Water is a sign that life might be possible.
Why are they using this technology on Earth? We know that there is water on Earth; we know that there is life on Earth.
Firstly, it’s the only way that scientists can “see” underground structures.
“This demonstration is a critical first step that will hopefully lead to large-scale mapping of aquifers, not only improving our ability to quantify groundwater processes, but also helping water managers drill more accurately,” said Muhammad Al-Rashed, director of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research’s Division of Water Resources.
We might have a lot of water on Earth, but it’s not distributed equally. Knowing the availability of the water supply helps us to use it in a sustainable manner.
Secondly, it’s a good way to study the climactic history of these regions.
“This research will help scientists better understand Earth’s fossil aquifer systems, the approximate number, occurrence and distribution of which remain largely unknown,” said Essam Heggy, research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Much of the evidence for climate change in Earth’s deserts lies beneath the surface and is reflected in its groundwater. By mapping desert aquifers with this technology, we can detect layers deposited by ancient geological processes and trace back paleoclimatic conditions that existed thousands of years ago, when many of today’s deserts were wet.”
Previously, climate research has focused on Earth’s polar regions and forests. It is important to study those areas, but arid and semi-arid regions make up a big part of the planet, and they should be studied too.
This is a great story that shows how technology developed for one area of research can often be useful for several other fields of science–all of which are highlighted in our High-Adventure Science investigations!
Learn about searching for water on other planets in the High-Adventure Science space investigation, learn about aquifers and water sustainability in the High-Adventure Science water investigation, and learn about using geologic formations to reconstruct previous climates in the High-Adventure Science climate investigation.