Geologists say that Antarctica’s newly discovered volcanic region, two kilometers below the surface of the vast ice sheet covering the western portion of the continent, is the largest on Earth, reports Robin McKie, dwarfing east Africa’s volcanic ridge, where mounts Nyiragongo, Kilimanjaro, Longonot and other of the world’s largest and most active volcanoes are concentrated.
Edinburgh University researchers discovered 91 new volcanos — with the highest of them towering as tall as the Eiger in Switzerland, nearly 4,000 meters above sea level — in addition to the 47 previously known to exist on the continent beneath the ice shelf.
“If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said Bingham. “Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.”
One of the paper’s authors, glacier expert Robert Bingham, also pointed to one alarming trend: “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.”