Scientists Discover Largest Volcanic Region on Earth

The volcanoes are hidden under the ice of Antarctica.

August 14, 2017 1:29 pm

A student suggestion may have just led to discovering the largest volcanic region on Earth. Scientists believe that they have found the region under the ice of Antarctica, reports the Independent

A remote survey discovered 91 volcanoes ranging in height from 100m to 3,850m in what is known as the West Antarctic Rift System. The range has similarities to east Africa’s volcanic ridge, which is currently acknowledged as the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world, according to geologist and ice experts.

This discovery was made by after Max Van Wyk de Vries, a third-year student at the University of Edinburgh, proposed the study, which is the first of its kind.

“After examining existing data on West Antarctica, I began discovering traces of volcanism,” said Van Wyk de Vries, according to the Independent. “Naturally I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of almost 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet.”

Researchers remotely surveyed the underside of the ice sheet for hidden peaks of basalt rock and analyzed the shape of the land beneath the ice, using ice-penetrating radar. They then compared the findings with satellite and database records, reports the Independent, as well as geological information from aerial surveys.

It is unclear if the volcanic region is active. Previous research has said that volcanic activity may have occurred in the region during warmer periods. That means it could increase if Antarctica’s ice thins with climate change.

The study was published in the Geological Society Special Publication series.

“Better understanding of volcanic activity could shed light on their impact on Antarctica’s ice in the past, present and future, and on other rift systems around the world,” said Dr Robert Bingham, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences to the Independent. 

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