Scientists have recently discovered the largest volcanic region in the world. Located below 2 kilometers of ice sheet in west Antarctica, the region contains approximately 100 volcanoes. The tallest volcano, which stands close to 4,000 meters high, is as big as Eiger, a mountain of the Bernese Alps.
East Africa’s volcanic ridge is currently the densest concentration of volcanos. However, researchers say this newly discovered region is much larger.
According to The Guardian, “Their study involved analyzing measurements made by previous surveys, which involved the use of ice-penetrating radar, carried either by planes or land vehicles, to survey strips of the west Antarctic ice. The results were then compared with satellite and database records and geological information from other aerial surveys.” The results showed 91 previously unknown volcanoes. These volcanos are in addition to the 47 already discovered volcanoes in the area.
Unfortunately, along with the joy of the discovery, quickly came worry. One of the glacier researchers on the project, Robert Bingham said “If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilize west Antarctica’s ice sheets. Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.” Therefore, the scientists must now concentrate on studying the volcanoes. Is it possible, even under these vast ice sheets, that the volcanoes could erupt? If eruption occurs, it could cause a rise in sea levels.
Bingham said “The most volcanism that is going in the world at present is in regions that have only recently lost their glacier covering – after the end of the last ice age. These places include Iceland and Alaska. Theory suggests that this is occurring because, without ice sheets on top of them, there is a release of pressure on the regions’ volcanoes and they become more active.” This trend is already occurring in west Antarctica due to rising temperatures. If the ice sheets melt enough, an eruption could occur.
Researchers are going to continue studying and watching the volcanoes in order to have more answers soon.