Nature

Experts Warn of Dramatic Sea Level Rise if Antarctic Volcanoes Erupt

Over 100 volcanoes may be found in Antarctica. There, two kilometers beneath the surface of a massive ice sheet that covers the continent’s west side, scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest volcanic zone. One of the highest learned was as tall as the Eiger, Switzerland’s iconic 3,967-meter-high peak.

Mount Erebus

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The finding was discovered in 2017 by a team from Edinburgh University, who stated that the region would exceed that of East Africa’s volcanic ridge, which was classified as having the world’s densest concentration of volcanoes.

Active Antarctic Volcanoes

Mount Erebus and Deception Island are the only active volcanoes in Antarctica.

They have radically distinct geological makeups than many others located across the planet.

While experts who work in and research Antarctica think the volcanoes are unlikely to cause any immediate danger, others have speculated that their eruption might have a global impact.

Professor of Volcanology at the University of Leicester, John Smellie, previously speculated that any movement from these volcanoes might result in large volumes of meltwater.

This water would then gradually flow into the sea, boosting the water level.

Related Article: Long Valley Supervolcano: World’s Most Dangerous Volcano Shows Signs of ‘Imminent Eruption’

Water Level

“The volcanoes would melt massive tunnels in the base of the ice and create enormous volumes of meltwater,” he said in 2017 to The Conversation regarding the structure of these volcanoes.

“Because the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is moist, rather than frozen to its substrate – think of an ice cube on a kitchen counter – meltwater might serve as a lubricant, causing the underlying ice to slip and move more quickly.”

“However, these volcanoes can also stabilize the ice by providing a surface for it to grab – imagine the identical ice cube snagging onto a lump-shaped item.”

“In any event, the amount of water produced by even a huge volcano is a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of ice above it.”

Possible Eruption

“A single eruption, therefore, will have little impact on the ice movement.” If many volcanoes erupt near or under any of West Antarctica’s famous ‘ice streams,’ it would make a tremendous difference.”

When it comes to freshwater reserves, Antarctica has over 80% of the world’s supplies.

This would raise world sea levels by nearly 60 meters if it melted.

According to scientists, this would render the world inhospitable for people.

Ice Streams

Antarctica

(Photo : Getty Images)

“Ice streams are rivers of ice that move considerably quicker than their surroundings,” Prof Smellie asserted, claiming that an explosion beneath the ice might hasten the process.

“Because these are the zones through which the majority of Antarctica’s ice is transported to the ocean, variations in their pace might alter sea level.”

“If repeated volcanic eruptions provided more ‘lubricant,’ the accompanying fast flow may deposit exceptional volumes of West Antarctica’s dense internal ice into the ocean, causing sea levels to increase.”

It’s likely that under-ice volcanoes produced a fast flow of ancient ice streams into Antarctica’s greatest ice shelf, the Ross Ice Shelf.

“A minor volcano in the Hudson Mountains, which sit beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, may have erupted around 2,000 years ago, causing the adjacent Pine Island Glacier to accelerate up if it erupted again today.”

“Most importantly, a huge sequence of eruptions might destabilize many additional subglacial volcanoes,” he warned.

Volcanoes in Cold Areas .

As volcanoes cool and crystallize, their magma chambers become pressurized, and all that stands between volcanic gases escaping violently in an eruption and the weight of overlying rock or, in this case, several kilometers of ice is the weight of overlying rock or, in this case, several kilometers of ice.

As the ice thins, the pressure drops, which might lead to eruptions.

Also Read: One of the World Largest Mass Extinctions May Have Been Triggered by Volcanic Winter

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