The World's Largest Volcanic System Is Under The Antarctic Ice

The World's Largest Volcanic System Is Under The Antarctic Ice

The World's Largest Volcanic System Is Under The Antarctic Ice

"Clearly the global mid-ocean ridge system (and the resulting ~50% of the Earth's surface that is "pure' oceanic crust) is the world's largest volcanic province, and even segments of the mid-ocean ridge system (e.g., the Mid-Atlantic Ridge) are much larger than this West Antarctic volcanic province".

If verified through other studies, the new results would bring the total number of volcanoes beneath this part of Antarctica to almost 140, and raise the unsettling possibility that subglacial heat from these volcanoes could speed up the melting of the ice.

The project was carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh who remotely surveyed the underside of the ice sheet. They compared the data they gathered to satellite and database records, along with geological information from aerial surveys.

This question was originally asked by the team's youngest member, Max Van Wyk de Vries, an undergraduate at the university's school of geosciences and a self-confessed volcano fanatic.

"If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica's ice sheets", Bingham warned. "Naturally I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of nearly 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet", he said.

The results do not indicate whether these newly-discovered volcanoes are active, but scientists plan to use this data to determine that in future studies.

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Even if most of the volcanoes no longer spew molten rock, it's clear that volcanic activity is still occurring, according to a recent study that found a surprising amount of heat flow underneath the glacier.

This story originally appeared on The Independent. The researchers say it's imperative that we figure this out as quickly as possible.

The study, undertaken by the University of Edinburgh, has now located a total of 138 volcanoes in a rejoin called the West Antarctic Rift System. It runs from the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf on Antarctica, to the Antarctic Peninsula - the tentacle-like arm that reaches up toward the curling, southernmost tip of South America that lies about 650 miles away. "Essentially, we were looking for evidence of volcanic cones sticking up into the ice", Bingham said. Based on measurements of other volcanoes worldwide, they knew that eruptions usually create cone-shaped mountains with a specific height-to-width ratio. It can lead to rise in the sea level which s already affecting our oceans.

All are covered in ice, sometimes in layers that are more than 4km thick.

Volcanic activity may increase if Antarctica's ice thins, which is likely in a warming climate, scientists say.

The volcanoes are of relatively recent origin - meaning they could be geologically active, they write.

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