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.
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.