Almost 100 Volcanoes Discovered Beneath Antarctica's Ice


The volcanoes covered in ice stand almost 3 miles along West Antarctica, possibly making the region denser than east Africa where Mount Kilimanjaro and other masses reside, Edinburgh University researchers told the Guardian.

According to geologists, this huge region is likely to dwarf east Africa's volcanic ridge - now rated as the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.

That's what University of Edinburgh undergrad Max Van Wyk de Vries discovered when he asked how many volcanic peaks might lie under the Antarctic ice sheet.

Naturally I looked into it further, which led to this discovery. They were searching for peaks made out of basalt, an igneous rock that also makes up the tips of known volcanoes that push through to the surface.

They analysed the shape of the land beneath the ice using measurements from ice-penetrating radar, and compared the findings with satellite and database records, as well as geological information from aerial surveys.

"The team's results do not indicate whether the volcanoes are active, but should inform ongoing research into seismic monitoring in the area", the university said. And even inactive volcanoes can increase heat flux to the subglacial interface, once again leading to increased melting and a faster rate at which the melting ice flows into the sea.

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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).

Previously it was known about the 47 volcanoes in Antarctica.

Researchers involved with the study pointed out that once ice retreats, it continues unabated as long as the ice bed remains smooth and it slopes down inland.

Researchers said there is a volcano every 4,800 square miles. Along with the East African Rift, this stretch of Antarctica is now one of the most volcano-dense regions in the world, according to the researchers.

Over 90 volcanoes under Antarctic were recently discovered by scientists. 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. Meltwater outflows into the Antarctic ocean could trigger sea level rises.

Significant warming caused by climate change in west Antarctica has already affected its ice sheets. We have nearly trebled the number of volcanoes known to exist in west Antarctica. A situation that must be closely monitored, said Bingham. One of Antarctica's most famous volcanoes, Mt. Erebus, is located in the region and has been active for some 1.3 million years, and Mt. Sidley, the highest volcano in Antarctica, is also nearby.