Active Mantle Plume Discovered Under Thick Ice in West Antarctica


http://earthchangesmedia.com/active-mantle-plume-discovered-under-thick-ice-in-west-antarctica
The discovery of the new unnamed volcano was announced in the Nov. 17 scientific journal Nature Geoscience. Doug Wiens, PhD, is a professor of Earth and Planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the project’s principal investigators.

Wiens…

The discovery of the new unnamed volcano was announced in the Nov. 17 scientific journal Nature Geoscience. Doug Wiens, PhD, is a professor of Earth and Planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the project’s principal investigators.

west antarctic

Wiens says: “I started seeing events that kept occurring at the same location, which was odd. Then I realized they were close to some mountains, but not right on top of them. I realized that the mountains were actually volcanoes and there was an age progression to the range. The volcanoes closest to the seismic events were the youngest ones.”

Instruments showed that almost all of the events had occurred at depths of 25 to 40 kilometers (15 to 25 miles below the surface). This is extraordinarily deep – deep enough to be near the boundary between the Earth’s crust and mantle, called the Moho, and more or less rules out a glacial origin.

West Antarctica-mantle plume_m

What the team found was an active mantle plume showing the movement of magma and other fluids that leads to pressure-induced vibrations in cracks within volcanic and hydrothermal systems.

Amanda Lough, a member of the team was asked Will the new volcano erupt? “Definitely,” Lough said. “In fact, because the radar shows a mountain beneath the ice, I think it has erupted in the past, before the rumblings we recorded.”

Will the eruptions punch through a kilometer or more of ice above it? The scientists calculated that an enormous eruption, one that released 1,000 times more energy than the typical eruption, would be necessary to breach the ice above the volcano. 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 ice – many lakes full,” Wiens said.

This water will rush beneath the ice toward 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.

“We weren’t expecting to find anything like this,” Wiens said.

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