Conservative Colloquium

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Volcanoes Melt Antarctic Ice?

Posted by Tony Listi on January 29, 2008


Another factor might be contributing to the thinning of some of the Antarctica’s glaciers — volcanoes, according to the authors of an article published on the Web site of the journal Nature Geoscience.

According to Hugh Corr and David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey:

  • Volcanically, Antarctica is a fairly quiet place; but sometime around 325 B.C., a hidden and still active volcano erupted, puncturing several hundred yards of ice above it.
  • Ash and shards from the volcano carried through the air and settled onto the surrounding landscape; that layer is now out of sight, hidden beneath the snows that fell during the next 2,300 years.
  • Still, the layer showed up clearly in airborne radar surveys conducted over the region in 2004 and 2005 by American and British scientists.

As a result, volcanic heat could still be melting ice to water and contributing to thinning and speeding up of the Pine Island glacier, which passes nearby.

“This is the first time we have seen a volcano beneath the ice sheet punch a hole through the ice sheet” in Antarctica, says Vaughan.

Source: Kenneth Change, “Antarctic volcanoes identified as a possible culprit in glacier melting,” International Herald Tribune, January 20, 2008.

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