Top 5 Most Amazing Geological Finds of 2013

Image credit USGS
Every time you think you’ve really gotten to know somebody, they go and reveal a whole new cache of secrets and surprises. The same even holds true for planet earth. Even after generations of explorers and scientists have devoted their lives to studying, mapping and surveying as much as possible about this place, huge discoveries are still made each and every year. While we’re not likely to stumble across a new tallest mountain anytime soon, if the year has been any indication, then there is much yet to be discovered on our diverse planet.

5 Mt. McKinley Gets Cut Down to Size

Image credit Wikipedia

Mt. McKinley, AKA Denali in AK, is still the tallest mountain in North America, but it turns out is not quite as tall as everyone thought. More precise use of modern, more accurate measuring equipment has revealed that the formerly 20,320 foot tall peak is actually 20,237 feet tall. But don’t worry—the 83 foot demotion still leaves McKinley as the tallest peak on the continent.

4 An Antarctic Crater the Size of Loch Ness

The continental landmass beneath Antarctica’s vast ice sheet is riddled with buried freshwater lakes, and from time to time these lakes will drain through channels in the rock and ice. Scientists recently discovered a huge crater left by one of these drained lakes; as much water as is stored in Scotland’s famed Loch Ness is thought to have escaped, leaving a void that could lead to increased breakup of the shifting ice above it.

3 Norwegian Oil Boom

Image credit Wikipedia

Everyone knows Norwegian territory has a lot of oil underneath it. But until recently, we didn’t know just how much potential petroleum is really there. New exploration has revealed potentially between 1,000 and 5,400 million cubic meters of oil (actually it’s “oil equivalent,” but we won’t go into that here) in an unexplored portion of the Norwegian Continental Shelf. That means as many as 850 million barrels of oil just waiting. Of course, the world uses 32 billion barrels a year…

2 A Grand Canyon Under the Ice

Image credit AboveTopSecret

While studying data from a series of satellites, scientists working for NASA discovered a formation that gives the Grand Canyon a run for its money. While this “new” canyon is neither as wide nor as deep as its cousin in Arizona, the gorge is more than 450 miles in length, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. Why was it just recently discovered? Because this millions-of-years-old canyon is buried beneath Greenland’s ice sheet. Carved long before the massive island was gripped by ice, today the canyon likely acts as a channel for melt water to flow toward the sea from beneath the glacier. Hopefully global warming will slow enough to where we can never see this massive canyon except by remote sensors that study bedrock buried beneath ice.

1 The Largest Volcano… Anywhere?

Image credit TheWatchers

Olympus Mons, a Martian supersized volcano, has long held the title for the largest known volcano in the entire solar system. But now it looks like the crown is coming back to earth! While Olympus Mons is taller than this “new” ancient volcano, the Tamu Massif is likely larger in sheer volume. In fact, in terms of sheer volume, this mega structure buried beneath the Pacific Ocean east of Japan is larger than the landmass of England and Ireland combined! Tamu Massif’s “footprint” occupies some 120,000 square miles of ocean floor, though its summit is only about 14,600 feet, hardly a record-setter. That summit is submerged in more than a mile of water, thus the recent confirmation of this massive formation’s true nature.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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