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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid