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A gigantic freshwater aquifer is hiding under the salty Atlantic Ocean, just off the northeastern coast of the United States, a new study finds.
While the aquifer's exact size is still a mystery, it may be the largest of its kind, taking up a region stretching from at least Massachusetts to southern New Jersey, or nearly 220 miles (350 kilometers). The area includes the coastlines of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. This aquifer may contain about 670 cubic miles (2,800 cubic kilometers) of slightly salty water (we'll explain its slight saltiness later).
Scientists - Hints - Aquifer - Ocean - 1970s
Scientists got the first hints that an aquifer was hanging out under the ocean in the 1970s, when companies drilling off the coast for oil sometimes hit freshwater instead. But it wasn't clear whether these freshwater water deposits were isolated pockets or whether they covered a larger expanse.
About 20 years ago, study co-researcher Kerry Key, now a geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York, began helping oil companies pinpoint oil hotspots by using electromagnetic imaging on the subseafloor. Much like an X-ray can image a person's bones, electromagnetic imaging uses electromagnetic waves (from static to microwaves and other high frequencies) to detect objects hidden from view.
Effort - Freshwater - Deposits - Key - Technology
More recently, in an effort to find freshwater deposits, Key decided to see if tweaking this technology could help him find aquifers, which are underground pools of fresh water. So, in 2015 he and study co-researcher Rob Evans, a senior scientist of geology and geophysics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spent 10 days at sea, taking measurements off the coast of southern New Jersey and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The researchers chose these spots because oil companies had reported finding fresh water there.
"We knew there was fresh water down there in isolated places, but we did...
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