Massive, underwater rivers have been discovered hidden off Australia’s coasts by robotic ocean gliders. These rivers could be critical for moving material from the coasts to the deep ocean, the researchers said.

Called “dense shelf water cascades,” the hidden rivers form when shallow water on the coasts loses heat during the colder months. This water is already highly salty due to evaporation during the summer months. This cold, salty stream of water in the inner portion of the continental shelf — the edge of the continent that’s typically submerged in shallow water — is denser than deeper water.

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