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All is not quiet and peaceful beneath Antarctica - VOLCANO!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Could it be that the demise of Antarctica's precious ice sheet is not entirely the fault of developed nations and their pollution? Possibly, as a roaring volcano has since been discovered broiling away there. Located in west Antarctica, it gives new meaning to the term 'tip of the iceberg.'

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While there are many volcanoes jutting up from the Antarctic ice, such as Mount Erebus, none of them were known to be active."For the first time, we're seeing evidence of activity right now," Amanda Lough of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri says.

A network of seismometers that have been installed in Marie Byrd Land in western Antarctica over the last six years has been taking the required measurements. The seismometers have detected two swarms of tremors; one in January and February 2010, and the other in March 2011.

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Those tremors were deep ones, and couldn't have been the result of the ice moving. The tremors also had a fairly low frequency, between 2 and 4 Hertz, suggesting they were not caused by an earthquake.

"That area is known to have been active in the past," Hugh Corr of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, says. Corr found traces of a sub-glacial eruption that took place around 2000 years ago in 2008.

Examining the subsurface topography, Lough says the recent tremors happened under a rise in the bedrock, which protrudes about a kilometer above the surrounding rock. It still isn't high enough to stick out of the ice. She believes this may be the volcanic cone. Lough also detected a layer of ash trapped in the ice, probably from an eruption. Based on its depth, the ash seems to be 8000 years old.

Close to a string of mountains called the Executive Committee Range, the new addition is among where onetime volcanoes once were. The volcanic activity seems to be moving south by about 9.6 kilometers every million years, Lough says.

The volcanoes are probably created by a tectonic rift running under west Antarctica, where Earth's crust is being slowly pulled apart and molten rock is welling up from beneath.

The presence of the rift means the area also experiences significant earthquakes, although the largest "mega-quakes" are unlikely.

"In the early studies people thought Antarctica was seismic," Lough says. "It definitely isn't. It's a lot livelier than people assumed."

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