Large expanse of volcanoes discovered beneath Antarctica

Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet

The dozens of newly determined formations almost double the 47 volcanoes previously located in West Antarctica, with the newly identified volcanoes towering up to 2.4 miles in height.

While the discovery of dozens of volcanoes under the ice certainly indicates that Antarctica is more geologically active previously believed, it's still not known how many are actually likely to erupt soon and what the consequences will be.

Researchers from University of Edinburgh remotely surveyed the underside of the ice sheet for concealed peaks of basalt rock, similar to those of other volcanoes in the vicinity whose tips push against the ice.

They analysed the shape of the land beneath using measurements from ice-penetrating radar and compared the findings with satellite and database records, as well as geological information from aerial surveys.

The analysis began with the concept of an undergraduate, Max Van Wyk de Vries, who theorized that publicly-available radar mapping of the continent could reveal what lies beneath the ice cover.

It is hoped the discovery will allow scientists to understand how volcanoes affect long-term fluctuations in the ice sheet as well as what the continent was like in past climates. "Naturally I looked into it further, which led to this discovery of nearly 100 volcanoes under the ice sheet", he said.

"The big question is: how active are these volcanoes?" The study's authors don't think volcanic activity has contributed to Antarctica's now retreating ice sheet.

This story originally appeared on The Independent.

Of those volcanoes, 91 had not been identified earlier, and the study's authors explain that the density of the volcanoes in the WARS is approximately one volcano per 4800 square miles. Back in 2013, researchers from Washington University detected at least one active, ice-covered volcano in Antarctica (also only the West Antarctic Ice Sheet), so it's reasonable to assume others may be active as well.

'Essentially, we were looking for evidence of volcanic cones sticking up into the ice'.

Over 90 volcanoes under Antarctic were recently discovered by scientists. This could lead to a feedback effect where melting ice causes eruptions, which in turn melt more ice and continue the cycle.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh came to this conclusion after they found 91 volcanoes that had remained hidden from geological surveys.

The volcanoes are of relatively recent origin - meaning they could be geologically active, they write.

Researchers have also found that volcanism in areas starts to increase with the decrease of glaciers, which could be the case for Antarctica.

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