Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

A massive iron meteorite smashed into Greenland as recently as 12,000 years ago, leaving a crater bigger than Paris that was recently discovered beneath the ice with sophisticated radar, researchers said Wednesday.

Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice
An iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, eastern Greenland in 2007. File photo: JOHN MCCONNICO/Ritzau Scanpix

The crater is the first of its kind ever found on Greenland – or under any of the Earth's ice sheets – and is among the 25 largest known on Earth, said the report in the journal Science Advances.

The impact of the 31-kilometre-wide crater under the Hiawatha Glacier would have had significant ripple effects in the region, possible even globally, researchers said.

But its story is just beginning to be told.

“There would have been debris projected into the atmosphere that would affect the climate and the potential for melting a lot of ice, so there could have been a sudden freshwater influx into the Nares Strait between Canada and Greenland that would have affected the ocean flow in that whole region,” said co-author John Paden, courtesy associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Kansas University.

“The evidence indicates that the impact probably happened after the Greenland Ice Sheet formed, but the research team is still working on the precise dating.”

The discovery was initially made in the 2015 but an international team of researchers has been working to verify the findings ever since.

The initial finding was made with data from NASA's Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment and Operation IceBridge.

More data was collected since then, using more advanced radar technology.

“So far, it has not been possible to date the crater directly, but its condition strongly suggests that it formed after ice began to cover Greenland, so younger than three million years old and possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago — toward the end of the last ice age” said co-author professor Kurt Kjær from the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Researchers plan to try and recover material that melted from the bottom of the glacier to learn more about its timing and effects on life on Earth at the time.

READ ALSO: Inuit hunting grounds in Greenland get Unesco heritage status


Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds