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Underwater Antarctic volcanoes discovered 12 July 2011

Posted by admin in Antarctica, current research, volcanology.
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Just a brief note (for now) on what looks to be a fascinating discovery. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey have discovered previously unknown underwater volcanoes in Antarctica. During research cruises in RRS James Clark Ross the BAS team discovered no fewer than twelve sub-sea volcanoes, some up to 3 km high, with at least one showing signs of recent activity. The volcanoes were identified in the Southern Ocean near the South Sandwich Islands, using shipboard 3D seafloor mapping technology.

News
Huge volcanoes mapped in sea near Antarctica – MSNBC, 11 July 2011
Antarctic survey finds undersea volcanoes – UPI, 11 July 2011

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Mt Erebus at the NASA Earth Observatory 18 February 2009

Posted by admin in Antarctica, Erebus, NASA Earth Observatory, volcano monitoring.
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Volcanic activity at Mt Erebus, Antarctica (NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 Team).

At the NASA Earth Observatory there’s a new image (small version above) of the Antarctic volcano Mount Erebus, captured by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. The Earth Observatory team have paired this true-colour image with another thermal image showing the volcano’s lava lake, and provided their usual detailed and highly informative caption.

NASA Earth Observatory: Volcanic Activity on Mt. Erebus.

[Image credit: NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 Team.]

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1908 ascent of Mt Erebus recalled 10 March 2008

Posted by admin in anniversaries, Antarctica, Erebus, history of volcanology, volcano culture.
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On 10 March 1908 members of the British Imperial Antarctic Expedition (also known as the Nimrod Expedition) climbed the active Antarctic volcano Mount Erebus on Ross Island, the first people to make the ascent to the crater rim. The 100th anniversary of this achievement is being marked today at the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory, which is run by New Mexico Tech at the very un-Antarctic location of Socorro, New Mexico.

Information
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program – summary information for Mount Erebus
MEVO – Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory
Antarctic Explorers: Ernest Shackleton – detailed biography, includes an account of the Nimrod Expedition

News
Erebus ascent recalled – Stuff.co.nz, 10 March 2008

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NOVA Geoblog on the Antarctic subglacial volcano 24 January 2008

Posted by admin in Antarctica, blogs, climate, current research, volcanology.
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There’s an excellent post at NOVA Geoblog on the Antarctica subglacial volcano: ‘New below-ice volcano in Antarctica’. Have a good look around, while you’re there: NOVA Geoblog, put together by Callan Bentley at Northern Virginia Community College, is one of the best geoscience blogs around.

(For background on the Antarctica subglacial volcano see the earlier posts here.)

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That Antarctic volcano again 22 January 2008

Posted by admin in Antarctica, climate, current research, volcanology.
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The new British study arguing that a subglacial volcanic eruption occurred in Antarctica two millennia or so ago and that the volcano responsible may still be active beneath the ice sheet has made a big splash in the world’s media, partly because of the ‘global warming’ aspect. The researchers, David Vaughan and Hugh Corr of the British Antarctic Survey were very careful in what they said about the relationship between subglacial volcanism and the overall melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, as National Geographic reports:

‘The presence of the volcano adds [to] the complexity of an issue that I thought we were getting on top of,’ Vaughan said. Western Antarctica ‘is losing ice to the oceans, and the volcano could be contributing to that effect.’ But it can only be responsible for a fraction of that change, he added, since the volcano only affects the nearby Pine Island Glacier. Global warming is still the main culprit behind the overall loss of ice from western Antarctica, researchers say.

Last month another study suggested that a ‘hot spot’ beneath north-eastern Greenland was contributing to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. It seems unlikely that atmospheric global warming will be toppled from its place as the primary explanatory paradigm for the melting of the world’s ice sheets, but the mechanisms at work are more complex than perhaps has hitherto been suspected. The role of geological heating beneath the polar icecaps is clearly something that has to be investigated in more detail.

A round-up of news stories on the Antarctic eruption is given below.

Information
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program – summary information for the Hudson Mountains (1900-028)
Antarctica Volcanoes and Volcanics – information from the United States Geological Survey

News
First evidence of under-ice volcanic eruption in Antarctica – British Antarctic Survey press release, 20 January 2008
Under-ice volcano eruption spewed ice over Antarctica – National Geographic News, 21 January 2008
First evidence of under-ice volcanic eruption in Antarctica – ScienceDaily, 21 January 2008
Scientists find active volcano in AntarcticaNew York Times, 21 January 2008

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More on the Antarctic subglacial eruption 21 January 2008

Posted by admin in Antarctica, current research, volcanology.
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The news service at New Scientist, for which a subscription to the magazine is not required, has a good report today on the Antarctic subglacial eruption study (see earlier post): ‘First subglacial eruption found in Antarctica’. The article observes that the Antarctic eruption some 2000 years ago would have been similar in size to the subglacial eruption at the Icelandic volcano Grímsvötn in November 2004; it also claims that there is already one known subglacial volcano in antarctica, Mount Casertz:

Although the new volcano is probably the most recent one to have exploded, researchers have known about another subglacial volcano in Antarctica for some time. Mount Casertz stands some 600 metres high, but the only sign of its existence from the surface is a large depression in the ice above caused by heat from the active cone melting the ice.

A side-issue: it’s very disappointing to find an article published under the New Scientist title (albeit not in the journal itself) linking to Wikipedia entries. Why link to the Wikipedia articles on the volcanoes Grímsvötn and Mount Erebus when the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program is just as easily accessible and possesses all the virtues of reliability, stability, consistency and authority that Wikipedia lacks?

Catherine Brahic, ‘First subglacial eruption found in Antarctica’, New Scientist Environment, 21 January 2008

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Subglacial volcanic eruption took place in Antarctica around 2000 years ago, new study suggests 20 January 2008

Posted by admin in Antarctica, current research, volcanology.
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The editors of the new Nature journal Nature Geoscience must be delighted: a paper from their first issue – in fact it’s an ‘advanced online publication’ – has made the mainstream media with its claim from a British Antarctic Survey team that a subglacial volcano erupted in the Antarctic around 2,200 years ago. The paper itself is subscription-only, but the first paragraph is available as an abstract on the journal’s website:

Indirect evidence suggests that volcanic activity occurring beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet influences ice flow and sheet stability. However, only volcanoes that protrude through the ice sheet and those inferred from geophysical techniques have been mapped so far. Here we analyse radar data from the Hudson Mountains, West Antarctica, that contain reflections from within the ice that had previously been interpreted erroneously as the ice-sheet bed. We show that the reflections are present within an elliptical area of about 23,000 km2 that contains tephra from an explosive volcanic eruption. The tephra layer is thickest at a subglacial topographic high, which we term the Hudson Mountains Subglacial Volcano. The layer depth dates the eruption at 207 BC plusminus 240 years, which matches exceptionally strong but previously unattributed conductivity signals in nearby ice cores. The layer contains 0.019–0.31 km3 of tephra, which implies a volcanic explosive index of 3–4. Production and episodic release of water from the volcano probably affected ice flow at the time of the eruption. Ongoing volcanic heat production may have implications for contemporary ice dynamics in this glacial system.

Recent active volcanism in the Hudson Mountains has been suspected, but remains unconfirmed. If the findings of this study are confirmed there would be significant implications for our understanding of Antarctic volcanism, and in particular of the possible role of subglacial volcanism in the dynamics of the Antarctic ice-sheet.

Information
Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program – summary information for the Hudson Mountains (1900-028)

News
Massive volcano exploded under Antarctic icesheet, study finds – AFP, 20 January 2008
Antarctic eruption noted – BBC News, 20 January 2008
First evidence of under-ice volcanic eruption in Antarctica – PhysOrg.com, 20 January 2008

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