BARCELONA – In the North Atlantic Ocean, hidden beneath the waves between Iceland and Greenland, lies a natural wonder that continues to amaze even the most seasoned scientists: the world’s tallest underwater waterfall.
Spanish researchers from the University of Barcelona deployed their scientific equipment this summer to study this fascinating phenomenon from a height of three kilometres, located in the Denmark Strait. It is considered one of the most powerful natural phenomena in the world.
Exploring the waterfall
A team led by David Amblàs and Anna Sanchez-Vidal travelled to the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean to investigate this unique cascade. With a ‘height’ of more than three kilometres and a water flow exceeding three million cubic metres per second, this research promises new insights into one of the most intense cold water flows on our planet.
The Impact on the global climate
The researchers are particularly interested in studying the impact of climate change on these waterfalls and how it affects global ocean circulation. They want to know how this ‘flood’ of cold water works its way along the seabed, reaching the deep gorges of the Atlantic Ocean.
A month of research
During the almost month-long expedition on board the research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa, the scientists carried out numerous research tasks. Among other things, they set out three anchor lines with measuring equipment, collected more than 600 water samples for geochemical and biological analysis and retrieved 30 metres of sediment samples.
In addition to studying the falls, the team also conducted research in the polar regions to better understand how climate change is affecting the falls. They used historical data, oceanographic models and sedimentological and geochemical indicators to reconstruct the evolution of these processes.
Effects of climate change
Their research project, known as FAR-DWO, aims to investigate the effects of climate change on the falls and the overall circulation of the ocean. The researchers have discovered that by analysing sediment samples from marine fragments it is possible to reconstruct past oceanographic processes. They believe this can be done in different climate scenarios.
The role of the sea in Catalonia
The effect of underwater waterfalls on the seabed was unknown until it was first described on the north coast of Catalonia. This was published by researchers from the University of Barcelona in the journal Nature in 2006. From this discovery, the scientists began controlled research to study these dense bodies of water, both in the Cap de Creus gorge and in various polar regions.