News / Science & Technology

Volcano Discovered Under Antarctic Ice

Mount Sidley, in Marie Byrd Land, is the last volcano that rises above the surface of the ice. Seismologists has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 60 kilometers away. (Washington University)Mount Sidley, in Marie Byrd Land, is the last volcano that rises above the surface of the ice. Seismologists has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 60 kilometers away. (Washington University)
x
Mount Sidley, in Marie Byrd Land, is the last volcano that rises above the surface of the ice. Seismologists has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 60 kilometers away. (Washington University)
Mount Sidley, in Marie Byrd Land, is the last volcano that rises above the surface of the ice. Seismologists has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 60 kilometers away. (Washington University)

Related Articles

Powerful Volcanoes Raise New Questions About Ancient Mars

Finding raises fresh questions about conditions on Mars in its early years, when scientists believe planet was much more Earth-like

Video Sicily's Mount Etna Erupts

Airport officials in nearby Catania said two air space sectors above the volcano were closed to flights

Photogallery Two Indonesian Volcanos Erupt

About 5,000 people who had recently been evacuated from the area around Mount Sinabung have not yet been able to return home
VOA News
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown volcano buried a kilometer under the Antarctic ice.

A group of scientists from Washington University initially set out to study the history of Anarctica’s climate. To do so, they set up seismic equipment across Marie Byrd Land in West Anarctica to “weigh the ice.”

Two seismic events, one in January of 2010 and another in March of 2011, puzzled the team.

The events were weak and very low frequency, which strongly suggested they weren’t tectonic in origin. While low-magnitude seismic events of tectonic origin typically have frequencies of 10 to 20 cycles per second, this shaking was dominated by frequencies of 2 to 4 cycles per second.

Scientists still needed to know if events were the result of rock grinding on rock, ice groaning over ice, or, perhaps, hot gases and liquid rock forcing their way through cracks in a volcanic complex.

“I started seeing events that kept occurring at the same location, which was odd,” PhD student Amanda Lough said. “Then I realized they were close to some mountains, but not right on top of them.”

“My first thought was, ‘OK, maybe it’s just coincidence.’ But then I looked more closely and realized that the mountains were actually volcanoes and there was an age progression to the range. The volcanoes closest to the seismic events were the youngest ones.”

After analyzing the data more, the scientists determined the events had occurred at depths of 25 to 40 kilometers. This is extraordinarily deep - deep enough to be near the boundary between the Earth’s crust and mantle, called the Moho, and more or less rules out a glacial origin.

That information also casts doubt on a tectonic one. “A tectonic event might have a hypocenter 10 to 15 kilometers deep, but at 25 to 40 kilometers, these were way too deep,” Lough said.

The team also consulted radar produced topographic maps to look at the area.

“In these maps, you can see that there’s elevation in the bed topography at the same location as the seismic events,” Lough said.

The radar images also showed a layer of ash buried under the ice. “They see this layer all around our group of earthquakes and only in this area,” Lough said.

“Their best guess is that it came from Mount Waesche, an existing volcano near Mount Sidley. But that is also interesting because scientists had no idea when Mount Waesche was last active, and the ash layer sets the age of the eruption at 8,000 years ago.”

Scientists still have questions.

“Most mountains in Antarctica are not volcanic,” Wiens said, “but most in this area are. Is it because East and West Antarctica are slowly rifting apart? We don’t know exactly. But we think there is probably a hot spot in the mantle here producing magma far beneath the surface.”

Lough said the volcano will “definitely” erupt, but that for the eruption to break through the ice, it would need to release about 1,000 times more energy than the typical eruption.

Still, a subglacial eruption would melt a lot of ice, scientists said. This could create millions of gallons of water beneath the ice, which would rush toward the sea and feed into the hydrological catchment of the MacAyeal Ice Stream, one of several major ice streams draining ice from Marie Byrd Land into the Ross Ice Shelf.

By lubricating the bedrock, it will speed the flow of the overlying ice, perhaps increasing the rate of ice-mass loss in West Antarctica.

The discovery of the new as-yet-unnamed volcano is announced in the Nov. 17 advance online issue of Nature Geoscience.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More