In Antarctica discovered a serious threat to humanity

Posted August 15, 2017

A survey of the region of the West Antarctic Rift System has revealed 91 new volcanoes hidden within the ice.

It bears resemblance to east Africa's volcanic ridge, which is now known to be the densest concentration of volcanoes on the planet.

"The presence of such a volcanic belt traversing the deepest marine basins beneath the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could prove to be a major influence on the past behavior and future stability of the ice sheet", researchers said in the study.

Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth - two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica.

Researchers relied on surveys using radar technology to peer through Antarctica's ice sheet, analyzing the measurements alongside other data to identity volcano-like formations.

The study, from researchers at Edinburgh University, used radar data from aircraft and satellites that penetrates through the ice to expose the rock below. This could lead to a feedback effect where melting ice causes eruptions, which in turn melt more ice and continue the cycle.

Ranging from 100m to 3,850m in height, these volcanoes were discovered using a digital elevation model known as Bedmap 2.

Researchers at Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom revealed a staggering 91 volcanoes, adding to the 47 others that had been discovered previously, with the highest as tall as the Eiger, which stands at nearly 4,000 metres in Switzerland.

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.

In fact, the authors reported that the density of the volcanoes is almost one per 4,800 square miles of land - making it comparable to the East African Rift, which has one volcano per 4,500 square miles, according to The Verge. But it does raise reasons to be both concerned and also potentially optimistic about how the volcanoes could either hasten or hinder Antarctic ice melt. Perhaps one of these newly discovered volcanoes will blow within our lifetimes, and we'll actually get a chance to see it.

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

So, if you live in a coastal location and are anxious about sea level rise, you might want to add volcanic activity to your list of things to closely watch for signs of how Antarctica will respond to a warming climate. A situation that must be closely monitored, said Bingham. In Antarctica, however, the land is covered by ice that can be more than a mile thick, leaving much of the underlying terrain shrouded in mystery.

So far, the Edinburgh University study has not found any active volcanoes under Antarctica.