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Monday, November 18, 2013

A volcano in Antarctica melts the ice at WUWT

Sou | 4:33 PM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment

A group of scientists discovered volcanic activity under the ice in West Antarctica and reported it as a paper in Nature Geoscience.  The press release is a nice description of the processes involved in the discovery and interpretation of signals found by the research team.

A major eruption would be needed for it to punch through the ice.  However it's likely that a normal eruption will melt water and maybe speed up ice loss - as described in the press release from Washington University in St Louis:

... a subglacial eruption and the accompanying heat flow will melt a lot of ice. “The volcano will create millions of gallons of water beneath the ice — many lakes full,” Wiens said. 
This water will rush beneath the ice toward the sea and feed into the hydrological catchment of the MacAyeal Ice Stream, one of several major ice streams draining ice from Marie Byrd Land into the Ross Ice Shelf.
By lubricating the bedrock, it will speed the flow of the overlying ice, perhaps increasing the rate of ice-mass loss in West Antarctica.

From the WUWT comments

Anthony Watts reported the research straight from the press release, with no snark and not giving any hint to his readers as to how to interpret it.  Different readers took various different slants (archived here).

Gerry Dorrian seems to expect that all the ice in Antarctica should have melted by now and says:
November 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm
The climos tell us our activities are melting the ice…so how come there’s still a kilometre of ice over a volcano?

Brent Walker talks of "outgassing liquid" CO2 and says:
November 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm
Any carbon dioxide outgassing under that thickness of ice would be in liquid form and would therefore increase the ice flow to the Ross Ice Shelf.

John L asks if there is anyone who still doesn't think "it's volcanos" and says:
November 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm
If newly discovered volcanoes are to be found, above sea level, just imagine the untold number yet to be discovered at the ocean floors, especially in the Pacific Ocean. Is there anyone still refusing to believe that the heat from within is not influencing the ocean temperatures, which rise and later transfer this heat energy to the atmosphere?

Jer0me is a bit more realistic and says:
November 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm
Dos this have any effect on the ‘warm spot’ in West Antarctica, I wonder? I suppose under kms of ice it would not.

u.k.(us) is uncomfortable with uncertainty and says:
November 17, 2013 at 8:17 pm
“By lubricating the bedrock, it will speed the flow of the overlying ice, perhaps increasing the rate of ice-mass loss in West Antarctica.”
That’s what I always tend to bet my future on…a “perhaps”.

Lough et al (2013); Seismic detection of an active subglacial magmatic complex in Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica; Nature Geoscience (2013) doi:10.1038/ngeo1992


  1. On WUWT, scientific discoveries are either true or false depending on whether they confirm a bias or not.

  2. So, on WUWT, volcanic activity increases as new volcanoes are discovered, right?

  3. For those interested, a sensible write up of the paper in New Scientist is here


  4. A question I posed on another wuwt thread was:
    Are undersea volcanos simply adding to the acidity of the ocean and not adding to the CO2 of the air?

    Not published of course as I am still banned it seems! But it was a genuine question.

    1. I would say that, because you have an equilibrium between gaseous CO2 and dissolved CO2 (this equilibrium being mainly sensitive to the acidity -pH- of the ocean), you have both. There are certainly short-term kinetic considerations (you are degassing directly in the ocean), but in the "long" term I think this is strictly equivalent to any CO2 emitter.
      I do not know however how much of the CO2 ends up in the ocean, though. Sorry




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