Current Affairs 2017 (August)

Earths Largest volcanic region found in Antarctica

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Britain have discovered the largest volcanic region on Earth, two km below the surface of the vast ice sheet in west Antarctica.

They have found 91 previously unknown active volcanoes in the region known as the West Antarctic rift system, adding to the exiting 47 volcanoes that were discovered earlier. This makes it largest volcanic region on the Earth.

Key Facts

These active peaks are concentrated in the west Antarctic rift system region — which stretches 3,500 km from Antarctica’s Ross ice shelf

to the Antarctic peninsula. The height of these newly discovered active volcanoes range from 100 to 3,850 metres, with the highest being almost as tall as Switzerland’s Eiger mountain (3,970 metre). All of these volcanoes are covered in thick layers of ice.

This region is larger than east Africa’s volcanic ridge which is currently rated as the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world. Any volcanic activity of Antarctic rift system may have crucial implications for the rest of the planet.

If one of the volcanoes in Antarctic rift system erupts, it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets. If it causes the melting of ice on eruption may speed up the flow of ice into the sea. It will enhance sea level rises that are already affecting our oceans due to climate change.


El Nino of 2014-16 aided in massive carbon dioxide release: Study

According to recent study conducted by scientists, the monster El Nino of 2014-16 caused over 3 billion tonnes of carbon to get released into the atmosphere, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration to record levels.

The study was based on analysis of data collected by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, which measures level of CO2 in the atmosphere. These are the first measurements for satellite tracking CO2 levels.

El Nino

El Nino is a complex periodic climate event that causes waters to warm up in east-central Pacific Ocean. The warming of ocean causes huge changes in wind directions which bring less rain to south-east Asia and Indian subcontinent, while increasing rain in other parts of the world.

Key Highlights of study

The El Nino led to excessive carbon dioxide releases in three ways. They are (i) Hot weather and drought caused extensive wildfires in south-east Asia, (ii) Drought in the Amazon rainforest stunted plant growth, reducing the amount of carbon they absorb while growing (iii) Warmer weather and near normal rainfall in Africa caused forests to exhale more CO2.

The rate of growth of CO2 in the atmosphere had hit an all-time high of 2.94 parts per million per year in 2015 and slightly below that at 2.89 ppm per year in 2016. In other words, CO2 was being added to the atmosphere at a much higher rate than ever before even though carbon emissions were flat.

In 2014 and 2015, CO2 emissions from burning of fossil fuels had flattened out to about 36.2 billion tonnes. Projections for 2016 too indicated that emissions were still flat.

The industrialised countries do not appear to be on course to meet the targets that they pledged at the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. Emissions from European Union countries have actually increased in 2015, the rate at which emissions from US and Japan are declining does not comply with what they had pledged at Paris.