The tallest waterfall on Earth is 2.2 miles high. No, it’s not Angel Falls in Venezuela, Niagara Falls, or Victoria Falls. It’s actually called the Denmark Strait cataract, and it’s located between Greenland and Iceland underneath the Denmark Strait. That’s right – it’s completely underwater. Water here falls from the Greenland Sea into the Iriger Sea, at a descent over three times as high as Angel Falls. The cataract is also over 100 miles wide, making it an absolute behemoth of a cascade.
Climate Change Is Destroying the World’s Largest Waterfall
But how can a waterfall exist…well, underwater? It’s all about the water temperature. According to the National Ocean Service, since cold water is denser than warm water, when southward-flowing water from the Nordic Seas merges with the warmer water of the Irmiger Sea, it sinks, and the cold water is forced below the warmer water. The cold water then flows over a huge drop in the seafloor to create the Denmark Strait cataract.
Climate change, however, is threatening underwater waterfalls like the Denmark Strait. Since oceans are getting warmer, there’s more freshwater and less sea ice formation, meaning a drawdown in the volume of cold water flowing downward.
Anna Sanchez-Vidal is leading an expedition investigating the Denmark Strait cataract. “A good example is on the Catalan coast,” she said in a statement, “where the decrease in the number of tramontane days in winter in the Gulf of Lion and north of the Catalan coast is causing a weakening of this oceanographic process, which is decisive in regulating the climate and has a great impact on deep ecosystems.”
These underwater falls may still remain a bit of a mystery, but it would be a shame to lose them to climate change before we can fully understand them.