No one ever says of the Sahara that a river runs through it. But somewhere between 11,700 and 5,000 years ago, one did. In full flow, it would rank 11th among the largest rivers on the earth today.* Paleoclimatologist and geochemist Charlotte Skonieczny of the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea and her colleagues report the evidence for the ancient channel in a recent issue of Nature Communications. The team discovered the so-called Tamanrasett River when examining microwave data collected by a Japanese satellite that had been mapping geologic features in the area. The hidden bedrock valley winds for more than 500 kilometers from the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.
This article was originally published with the title "Deserted Waters" in Scientific American 314, 5, 14 (May 2016)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Shannon Hall is an award-winning freelance science journalist based in the Rocky Mountains. She specializes in writing about astronomy, geology and the environment. Credit: Nick Higgins