Earth's largest volcanic region with 100 volcanoes discovered in Antarctica

Scientists discover largest ever volcanic region on Earth lying under Antarctica ice sheet

The results brought the total of identified volcanoes on the continent to 138-all of which are in an area called the West Antarctic Rift System. The largest of these is as tall as the Eiger in Switzerland.

Scientists have identified almost 100 previously unknown volcanoes in West Antarctica, which, in addition to the 47 already known to exist in the region, makes it one of the largest concentration of volcanoes in the world. More to the point, the discovery could be bad news, the scientists warn.

"If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarcticas ice sheets". A serious eruption could melt the bottom of the ice sheet immediately above the volcano's vent, but we really have no idea what would happen after that.

Critically, though, the study does not indicate whether the subglacial volcanoes are now active. "That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible". In fact, the volcanoes themselves could act as a kind of brake by making the terrain more uneven and inhibiting the flow of ice. He set up the project with the help of Bingham.

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Antarctica remains among the least studied areas of the globe, he said.

Dr Bingham explained the results were compared with satellite and database records and geological information from aerial surveys. "If the rock bed of the ice sheet is smooth, then retreat can proceed rapidly, but if the bed contains lots of topography, like volcanic cones, or craters, then this could slow the rate of retreat a lot", Cottle says.

The 91 new finds were added to another nearly 50 volcanoes already known to exist there.

Scientists found 91 previously unknown volcanoes, ranging in height from 100 to 3850 metres.

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Scientists have discovered what they believe could be the world's biggest volcanic region in western Antarctica. 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.

"We were amazed", Bingham told The Guardian. "We had not expected to find anything like that number".

"I think it is very likely this region will turn out to be the densest region of volcanoes in the world, greater even than east Africa, where mounts Nyiragongo, Kilimanjaro, Longonot and all the other active volcanoes are concentrated".

The findings could have "major implications for our understanding of the region and the massive ice sheet that covers it", the site says.

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So far, the Edinburgh University study has not found any active volcanoes under Antarctica. Earth science experts have determined that glaciers covered the most active volcano regions in the world, like Alaska and Iceland, during the last ice age.


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