Volcanoes Discovered Under Antarctica's Ice

Aerial view of Mount Erebus craters in the foreground with Mount Terror in the background Ross Island Antarctica

This discovery shows that the region has as many volcanoes as regions from East Asia or North America have.

A volcanic eruption in this region could further destabilise west Antarctica's ice sheets.

The volcanoes were hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet and uncovered via publicly available radar mapping data. Previous studies have also hinted at the presence of the volcanoes #Beneath The Ice, but due to the presence of the immensely thick layer of the ice covering the surface, it has been immensely hard to study the geology. The volcanoes are concentrated in an area called the west Antarctic rift system, a region that stretches 3,500 kilometers from Antarctica's Ross ice shelf to the Antarctic peninsula. The seepage of meltwater beneath Greenland's and West Antarctica's ice sheets also lubricates ice streams which make them move more quickly into the sea.

Before classifying the underlying structures as volcanoes, however, the team came up with five-point criteria to gauge how confident they were that a structure could be a #volcano.

According to the Edinburgh University researchers, who published their findings in the Geological Society's "Special Publications" series back in May, this brings the total number of volcanoes in the 1,800-mile-long West Antarctic Rift System to 138, but what is still not known is how numerous volcanoes-which range in height from around 300 feet to 12,600 feet-are active.

We note that 98% of the 47 previously identified volcanoes in West Antarctica achieved a confidence score greater than 3.

But what does it mean?

The largely uneroded nature of the cones suggests that many may be of Pleistocene age or younger, which supports the argument that the rift remains active today.

The world is already experiencing many adverse effects due to global warming. "Anything that causes the melting of ice - which an eruption certainly would - is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea", said Bingham. However, the data does not reveal if any of the newly found volcanoes are still active and many could be extinct.

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