Scientists have discovered the largest ever volcanic region on Earth with almost 100 volcanoes under the vast Antarctic ice sheet. One among them is as tall as Switzerland’s Eiger which is almost 4,000 metre.
Researchers at UK’s Edinburgh University uncovered 91 volcanoes in Antarctica which range in height from 100 to 3,850 metres, adding to the 47 others that had been discovered previously.
The newly discovered volcanoes are covered in thick layers of ice in the West Antarctic rift system.
The West Antarctic rift system is 3,500 km long stretch from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The staggering number of these active peaks have even surprised the researchers.
“We had not expected to find anything like that number. We have almost trebled the number of volcanoes known to exist in west Antarctica,” Robert Bingham, from the University of Edinburgh, told ‘the Guardian’.
“We also suspect there are even more on the bed of the sea that lies under the Ross ice shelf, it is very likely this region will turn out to be the densest region of volcanoes in the world, greater even than east Africa, where mounts Nyiragongo, Kilimanjaro, Longonot and all the other active volcanoes are concentrated,” said Bingham.
Researchers fear if these volcanos erupt, ice sheets of Antarctica can further destabilise and melt.
“If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise West Antarctica’s ice sheets. Anything that causes the melting of ice - which an eruption certainly would - is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea,” said Bingham.