Massive River Once Flowed Across Sahara: Scientists Find Paleoriver Network Under Desert Sands

First Posted: Dec 08, 2015 11:36 AM EST

Scientists have discovered that a vast river network was occupied the sands of the western Sahara desert. The researchers gathered images, which detected a paleoriver network beneath the desert sands, according to a study.

The former river system is believed to be a part of the Tamanrasett River valley, which no longer exists. The river's drainage basin at the time was probably greater than the modern Ganges-Brahmaputra River basin, which lies Asia and the St. Lawrence River basin in North America, according to the researchers.

It is almost impossible to think that a desert area as dry as the Sahara was once covered with flourishing rivers basins and flowing water. The researchers believe that the river deposited water to the sea when high levels of humidity occupied the region 245,000 years ago and the water consistency in the channels lasted up to 5,000 years ago.

The researchers acquired the radar images of the ancient river network with the Japanese Earth observation satellite, which detected the ancient river system under the thick layers desert sands. In the study, the researchers uncovered evidence revealing that the desert's former river system emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. This river network may have been quite essential in sustaining human, animal and plant life that once thrived in the region at the time. If this river system existed today, it would be listed among the top 12 largest rivers on the earth, according to the study.

For years, scientists theorized about the paleoriver network beneath the desert sands, off the coast of Mauritania in Africa. The discovery of fine sediments indicated its origin from an ancient river. Researchers believe that the Western Sahara was once a wet and 'green' environment, before its transition to a dry desert.

The Sahara desert is one of the largest and hottest deserts on earth.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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