The inhospitable conditions combined with the vast sheet of ice across its rocky surface have made Antarctica one of the most difficult to explore areas on the planet. Now, thanks to a massive study based on a digital elevation model, a team of scientists believes that they have found around 100 volcanoes, more than ever predicted to exist upon the icy southern continent.
A Complete Volcanic System of Around 100 Volcanoes
The digital map was created using a system called Bedmap 2 DEM. This is a massive compilation of data put together by the British Antarctic Survey using radar imagery. The scientists looked for conical formations that might indicate volcanoes. Especially ones with a specific height to width ratio and an elevation of over 100 meters or 328 ft.
Within that criteria, they found 138 possible volcanoes. Among them, 91 have been confirmed as being new, never before known discoveries. The research team has named the network the Western Antarctic Rift System.
The tallest discovered volcano was 3850 meters or some 12,600 ft. The cones of these more than 100 volcanoes ranged in diameter from 2 miles or 3.2 km, to over 40 miles or 65 km. That makes them comparable to the size of the East African Rift, one of the most active volcanic areas on Earth.
The team was unable to determine how many if any of these volcanoes are still active. However, this survey does give plenty of new information for future studies or expeditions to explore that possibility.
One of the main concerns involved with this discovery is the potential for volcanic activity to hasten the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. If 100 volcanoes enter a period of liveliness, it could accelerate the ice sheet’s slide into the ocean. Recent studies in Greenland have shown that to be a distinct possibility. If Antarctica has similar activity, it could significantly increase the danger of sea level rise.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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