November 19, 2013
Volcano Forming In Antarctica Under 1 Kilometer Of Ice

Volcano to erupt in Antarctica?

The discovery of the new as yet unnamed volcano is announced in the Nov. 17 advanced online issue of Nature Geoscience.

Even if it erupts it is unlikely to penetrate the ice all the way to the surface. But it will melt a lot of ice.

The scientists calculated that an enormous eruption, one that released a thousand times more energy than the typical eruption, would be necessary to breach the ice above the volcano.

On the other hand a subglacial eruption and the accompanying heat flow will melt a lot of ice. "The volcano will create millions of gallons of water beneath the iceómany lakes full," says Wiens. This water will rush beneath the ice towards the sea and feed into the hydrological catchment of the MacAyeal Ice Stream, one of several major ice streams draining ice from Marie Byrd Land into the Ross Ice Shelf.

By lubricating the bedrock, it will speed the flow of the overlying ice, perhaps increasing the rate of ice-mass loss in West Antarctica.

A really big volcanic eruption would make our futures much bleaker and, in the extreme, much shorter. I do not want the challenge of having to survive a Toba level of volcanic eruption or even an 1815 Tambora level of eruption.

What I wonder: could a massive eruption in Antarctica cause both a massive global cooling and a large rise in sea levels at the same time?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 November 19 09:06 PM 

Kudzu Bob said at November 19, 2013 11:06 PM:

We might be able to blow up or at least deflect a killer asteroid that's headed toward Earth, but when it comes to supervolcanoes, not even the acting skills of Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck can save us.

Brett Bellmore said at November 20, 2013 2:43 AM:

So, it might reduce the rate of ice mass gain, to be more accurate?

Neil Craig said at November 20, 2013 4:46 AM:

Tambora caused cooling by putting sulphur crystals in the stratosphere and reflecting sunlight. If this does not penetrate the surface of the ice it cannot do that.

I would assume there have been similar eruptions within historic or prehistoric times. We would probably know if there had been a significant, sudden, sea level rise previously.

MJLange said at November 20, 2013 9:56 AM:

More than likely, this will increase or sustain the 'dead zone' in the south Pacific. This is a place near the Antarctic where few aquatic creatures live, because salinity and oxygen levels are lower.

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