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USA And Qatar Join Hands To Find Hidden Water From Under The Earth's Deserts

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  • Tip Bones

After an arid spell of political unease, the US and Qatar are joining hands to solve one of the most pressing problems of the contemporary world: water shortage. While the Earth is several parts ocean and only 9.57% desert, the majestic stretches of sand and ice are the most enigmatic of nature’s conundrums. The desert ecosystems are not highly perceivable, but there are regular speculations that they are rich in resources that humankind can benefit from for many years. NASA and The Qatar Foundation for Science, Education & Community Development are also targeting this idea, and they are, hence, setting out on a mission to find buried water in Earth's deserts.

Researchers at the Orbiting Arid Subsurfaces and Ice Sheet Sounder (OASIS) study project are designing a satellite to investigate the sand dunes and ice fields in the Earth’s regions with the most extreme climates. The main aim of the project is to discover, map the distribution of, and maintain underground sources of freshwater called aquifers, which are quite abundant in the deserts of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Scientists plan to use radar technology embedded in the satellite to understand how aquifers originate and the movement of groundwater beneath the desert surfaces. Apart from North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, project researchers will also probe the topography of the land under ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, in order to help understand better their contributions to sea-level rise.

The radar technology in the satellite senses variations in the electrical properties beneath Earth's surface caused by rocks, sediments, waterlogged soils, ice, pools of water, and the like. Varying topography absorbs different signal intensity, which allows researchers to observe how much of the signal bounces back to the instrument, as well as how long the signal takes to return. This helps them map what the structure beneath the surfaces of the deserts in the study looks like.

Source: NASA