Almost 100 Volcanoes Discovered Under Antarctic Ice Sheet

Lena Tucker
August 15, 2017

Geologists and ice experts say the range has many similarities to East Africa's volcanic ridge, which is now acknowledged to be the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.

It is unclear whether the Antarctic volcanoes are active, but previous studies have suggested that during warmer periods volcanic activity does occur in the region.

'If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica's ice sheets.

The ground-penetrating radar was compared and contrasted with aerial surveys and satellite images, write the scientists from Edinburgh's School of Geosciences. A serious eruption could melt the bottom of the ice sheet immediately above the volcano's vent, but we really have no idea what would happen after that.

According to the study, the analysis gives a deeper look at an area that is not well understood from a volcanic standpoint, due to the ice cover.

Using this method, the study identified volcanoes ranging from 328 feet (100 metres) to just over 12,600 feet (3,850 metres) in height, reports The Verge, with diameters of two miles (3.2km) and up to 40 miles (64.4km).

As the true, extended scope of the West Antarctic Rift System has only recently been detected, it could be some time before we know the real impact of this discovery.

Antarctica remains among the least studied areas of the globe, he said. It could be that numerous volcanoes are now extinct, he says.

Dozens of volcanoes are lurking underneath the ice of Antarctica, possibly making one part of the frozen continent the biggest volcanic region in the world. But they do theorize that the loss of an icy covering over the volcanoes, spurred perhaps by future activity, could let the volcanoes to release pressure - becoming more active. "If the rock bed of the ice sheet is smooth, then retreat can proceed rapidly, but if the bed contains lots of topography, like volcanic cones, or craters, then this could slow the rate of retreat a lot", Cottle says. Mount Gaussberg, for example, is a young volcano protruding above the ice in East Antarctica, and Coffin says there may be many more under East Antarctic ice, as well.

These newly discovered volcanoes range from 100 to 3,850 metres high. We have nearly trebled the number of volcanoes known to exist in west Antarctica.

Dr Bingham's fear is that the Antarctic ocean's meltwater outflows will cause sea levels to rise.

Scientists identified 91 cone-shaped structures underneath ice in Antarctica that could be previously unknown volcanoes. "Volcanic activity may increase if Antarctica's ice thins, which is likely in a warming climate".

"It is something we will have to watch closely", Bingham told The Guardian.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

Discuss This Article