Active volcano found under West Antarctic ice sheet

Last Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 11:34

Washington: Researchers have discovered a smouldering volcano under a kilometer of ice in West Antarctica.

In January 2010 a team of scientists had set up two crossing lines of seismographs across Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica.

It was the first time the scientists had deployed many instruments in the interior of the continent that could operate year-round even in the coldest parts of Antarctica.

Like a giant CT machine, the seismograph array used disturbances created by distant earthquakes to make images of the ice and rock deep within West Antarctica.

Doug Wiens, professor of earth and planetary science at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the project`s principle investigators, said that the goal was essentially to weigh the ice sheet to help reconstruct Antarctica`s climate history.

But to do this accurately the scientists had to know how the earth`s mantle would respond to an ice burden, and that depended on whether it was hot and fluid or cool and viscous. The seismic data would allow them to map the mantle`s properties.

In the meantime, automated-event-detection software was put to work to comb the data for anything unusual.

When it found two bursts of seismic events between January 2010 and March 2011, Wiens` PhD student Amanda Lough looked more closely to see what was rattling the continent`s bones.

Uncertain at first, the more Lough and her colleagues looked, the more convinced they became that a new volcano was forming a kilometer beneath the ice.

The study has been published online in journal Nature Geoscience.


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First Published: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 11:34

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