The breathtaking blue river on top of the Peterman glacier. Now, scientists believe they have found a "Dark River" below the glacier which could be a massive discovery, if confirmed. Credit: Lucas Laursen

10 Things You Should Know About the Mysterious Dark River Flowing Beneath Greenland

Scientists suggest that a massive underground river may be running under the massive glaciers of Greenland in a stumping new discovery.


By calculating the thickness of glaciers in northwestern Greenland and the nature of their movement, Japanese climatologists have found hints of the existence of a glacial river almost a thousand kilometers long. If the discovery of this “Dark River” proves to be true, it could change our whole perception of the hydrology of Greenland’s ice and could provide the necessary knowledge to predict the outcomes of the everchanging climate. 

As I guess you know, most climatologists do not doubt the existence of global warming. While this is a natural process on the planet that has happened many times throughout history, humans are definitely making a big contribution to speeding it up. In any case, if temperatures continue to rise, the first and main victims of this process will be the polar regions and mountain glaciers. The temperature there is already over 5 degrees higher than in previous centuries.


For many years, climate satellites have been proving that Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster and faster. On average, since the beginning of this century, their volume has begun to decline about four times faster. Therefore, this new discovery could be key to Greenland’s future. Here’s what we know so far.

Map of the valley and the river that scientists now believe exists. Credit: CHRISTOPHER CHAMBERS /The Cryosphere 2020
Map of the valley and the river that scientists now believe exists. Credit: CHRISTOPHER CHAMBERS /The Cryosphere 2020

1. Scientists used the SICOPOLIS model which is a 3D simulation of the evolution of ice sheets

2. With the help of numerous radar images of glaciers, as well as data on their behavior and structure, they understand their past

3. With the help of this knowledge, they discovered that there should be a large river under the Peterman Glacier

4. At this time, it is believed that this river should be between 700 and 1000 kilometers long

5. The name they chose for the river – the Dark River – is also interesting

6. According to scientists, this Dark River runs across the entire plain below the glacier

7. Currently, it is believed that it probably flows into the Arctic Ocean

8. Whether or not the river flows at this time cannot be confirmed due to a lack of radar images from the area near the Peterman Fjord

9. Only after a bunch of more research can it become clear whether this Dark River really exists in the form in which scientists present and explain it

10. The answers to all the questions we have mentioned will be crucial and will help us to understand the role of such subglacial rivers in climate change

Here is a small quote from Ralf Greve, a professor at Hokkaido University in Japan and also one of the authors of the study:

“To confirm that the results of our calculations are true, additional radar measurements are needed. If this river really exists, it will fundamentally change our understanding of the hydrology of the Greenland ice sheet and its further development in the changing climate”

If you are interested in reading the entire study, follow this link.


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Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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