Discovering More Volcanoes in Antarctica

Monday, August 14, 2017 - 02:51

A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences has discovered 91 previously undiscovered volcanoes, some over 12,600 feet tall.

Researchers examined a digital elevation model called Bedmap 2 DEM. That survey created a surface elevation model using radar imaging, which the team examined, looking for volcanic structures, the Verge reports.

The team created a series of criteria for identifying probable volcano cones: a mound that has a certain length vs. width ratio and which has an elevations of more than 328 feet (100 meters), which were then examined from multiple angles to discern its shape. From that data, the team put together a five-point criteria to gauge how confident they were that each structure was a volcano.

The study resulted in the discovery of 178 cone-shaped structures in a region that researchers named the West Antarctic Rift System. Of those structures, researchers found that 138 are likely volcanoes, based on their confidence criteria.

The identified volcanoes range from 328 feet (100 meters) to just over 12600 feet (3850 meters) in height, with cones that range from about two miles to just under 40 miles in dimeter. Of those volcanoes, 91 had not been previously been identified, and the study’s authors explain that the density of the volcanoes in the WARS is approximately one volcano per 4800 square miles.

The results could have major implications for our understanding of the region and the massive ice sheet that covers it. The study’s authors explain that they aren’t able to determine if any of the newly-discovered volcanoes are active, but note that their survey should be able to help fuel future studies to help determine that. They also don’t believe that volcanic activity has played a role in the present retreat of the ice sheet.

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