A team from the School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, has identified 138 volcanoes, 91 of which were newly identified, under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Improving our understanding of subglacial volcanic activity across the province is important both for helping to constrain how volcanism and rifting may have influenced ice-sheet growth and decay over previous glacial cycles, and in light of concerns over whether enhanced geo- thermal heat fluxes and subglacial melting may contribute to instability of the WAIS.
The WAIS overlies the ice-covered West Antarctic Rift System for which we have limited knowledge of volcanic activity and extent. The team used ice-sheet bed-elevation data, mainly from the BEDMAP-2 digitial elevation model (a SCAR Product), to locate individual conical edifices protruding upwards into the ice across West Antarctica. They used aeromagnetic, aerogravity, satellite imagery and databases of confirmed volcanoes to support their interpretation. The overall result constitutes a first inventory of West Antarctica’s subglacial volcanism. The volcanoes are especially concentrated and orientated along the >3000 km central axis of the West Antarctic Rift System.
Maximillian Van Wyk de Vries, Robert G. Bingham & Andrew S. Hein, A new volcanic province: an inventory of subglacial volcanoes in West Antarctica, from Exploration of Subsurface Antarctica: Uncovering Past Changes and Modern Processes. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 461 (2017).