Scientists Find 91 More Antarctic Volcanoes Beneath Ice Sheet

In Science
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An iceberg lies in the Ross Sea with Mount Erebus in the background near McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on Nov. 11, 2016.

(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Scientists have confirmed the discovery of 91 more volcanoes beneath the West Antarctica ice sheet.
  • There are now 138 known volcanoes among the West Antarctic Rift System, the study said.
  • It’s unknown if any of these newly discovered volcanoes are a threat to erupt.


Scientists have announced the discovery of 91 volcanoes underneath the West Antarctica ice sheet – a discovery that makes the area one of the largest volcanic regions in the world.


The findings published by scientists from the University of Edinburgh after an expansive study of the West Antarctic Rift System. Through a deep analysis of the region, the researchers found 178 cone-shaped structures under the ice sheet and determined 138 were volcanoes, 91 of which were previously undiscovered.


Because of the new discovery, the scientists said it’s likely that the West Antarctic Rift System will surpass east Africa’s volcanic ridge, home to Mount Kilimanjaro, as the location with the highest density of volcanoes in the world.


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“The big question is: ?” asked Robert Bingham, a glacier expert and one of the paper’s authors, in a report from the Guardian. “That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.”


One such reason to learn more about the activity level of these volcanoes, some of which are more than 12,000 feet tall but still sit completely under the thick sheet of ice, is that an eruption could melt tremendous amounts of ice in a short period of time. If that happens, sea level rise could accelerate even more, Bingham added.


The idea to explore the region came from , according to Phys.org. In his third year of studying geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, Van Wyk de Vries studied publicly available radar mapping information of Antarctica and submitted his study to the school’s researchers. After reviewing the study, the researchers were able to verify what Van Wyk de Vries had found.


“Antarctica remains among the least studied areas of the globe, and as a young scientist, I was excited to learn about something new and not well understood,” Van Wyk de Vries told Phys.org. “After examining existing data on West Antarctica, I began discovering traces of volcanism. Naturally, I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of almost 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet.”



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