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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid