Tag Archives: volcanoes

Active Volcano Discovered Underneath Antarctic

Active Volcano Discovered Underneath Antarctic Ice Sheet, Confirming Long-Held Suspicions

Posted: 11/18/2013 10:26 am EST  |  Updated: 11/18/2013 2:52 pm EST

Volcano Under Antarctica

By Becky Oskin, LiveScience Staff Writer:

Earthquakes deep below West Antarctica reveal an active volcano hidden beneath the massive ice sheet, researchers said today (Nov. 17) in a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The discovery finally confirms long-held suspicions of volcanic activity concealed by the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Several volcanoes poke up along the Antarctic coast and its offshore islands, such as Mount Erebus, but this is the first time anyone has caught magma in action far from the coast.

“This is really the golden age of discovery of the Antarctic continent,” said Richard Aster, a co-author of the study and a seismologist at Colorado State University. “I think there’s no question that there are more volcanic surprises beneath the ice.”

The volcano was a lucky find. The research project, called POLENET, was intended to reveal the structure of Earth’s mantle, the layer beneath the crust. In 2010, a team led by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis spent weeks slogging across the snow, pulling sleds laden with earthquake-monitoring equipment. [Images: Trek Across Antarctica]

Right place, right time

Two earthquake swarms struck beneath the researchers’ feet in January 2010 and March 2011, near the Executive Committee Range in the Marie Byrd Land region of the continent. As the researchers later discovered, the tremors — called deep, long-period earthquakes (DLPs) — were nearly identical to DLPs detected under active volcanoes in Alaska and Washington. The swarms were 15 to 25 miles (25 to 40 kilometers) below the surface.

“It’s an exciting story,” said Amanda Lough, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in seismology at Washington University in St. Louis. Though there were no signs of a blast, a 3,200-foot-tall (1,000 meters) bulge under the ice suggests the volcano had blasted out lava in the past, forming a budding peak.

The POLENET/ANET field team drags equipment to install remote seismic and GPS stations at Mount Sidley, a volcano in Antarctica (seen in background).

“We can say with pretty high confidence that there wasn’t an eruption while we were out there,” Lough told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet. “We had people installing [seismometer] stations and flying airborne radar over the ice. But from the bed topography, we can see there is something building up beneath the ice.”

Scientists think that underground magma and fluids pushing open new paths and fracturing rock cause deep, long-period earthquakes. Many active volcanoes in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands have frequently produced these deep earthquake swarms without any signs of impending eruptions. However, researchers also monitor the tremors because a sudden uptick in shaking was seen before eruptions at Mount Spurr and Mount Redoubt in Alaska.

A volcanic flood

If the volcano in Antarctica did erupt, it would melt the bottom of the ice sheet immediately above the vent. Scientists aren’t sure what would happen next. In Iceland, volcanic eruptions can melt glaciers, causing massive floods calledjökulhlaups. But the ice above the Antarctic volcano is more than a half-mile (1 km) thick.

“How West Antarctic ice streams would react to an eruption a hundred or more kilometers [60 miles] inland from the grounding line is a yet-to-be-answered question,” said Stefan Vogel, a glaciologist with Australian Antarctic Division who was not involved in the study. The grounding line is the spot where glaciers detach from rock and float on water.

“There is certainly a need for more research, both in mapping the distribution and monitoring the activity level of subglacial volcanic activity beneath ice sheets, as well as studying the impact of subglacial volcanic activity on the hydrological system of glaciers and ice sheets,” Vogel said in an email interview.

It would take a super-eruption in the style of Yellowstone’s ancient blowouts to completely melt the ice above the active volcano, Lough and her co-authors calculated. And if the volcano under the ice is similar to ones close by, such as Mount Sidley, there’s no risk of a super-eruption. [Big Blasts: History’s 10 Most Destructive Volcanoes]

Instead, the millions of gallons of meltwater might simply hasten the flow of the nearby MacAyeal Ice Stream toward the sea.

“People hear the word ‘volcano’ and get caught up in the idea that it will change the way the ice sheet works, but this stuff has been going on underneath the ice [for millions of years], and the ice sheet is in balance with it,” Lough said. “Everyday magmatism isn’t enough to cause major problems.”

Hugh Corr, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey who also discovered a buried Antarctic volcano, said an eruption could have a big effect, but it’s difficult to quantify.

“The biggest effect on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is still climate change — warming the ocean, melting the ice shelves. That’s the most immediate risk, compared to if a volcano might go off,” said Corr, who was not involved in the study.

A geologic puzzle

Signs of active and extinct volcanoes pop up all over Antarctica. Ash layers and lava indicate volcanoes spouted while the continent froze during the past 20 million years or more. (An 8,000-year-old ash layer sits above the newly found volcano, but it comes from Mount Waesche, a nearby peak.)

“The [West] coast of Antarctica is like a ring of fire,” Corr said.

The Executive Committee Range in West Antarctica is home to a newly discovered active volcano.

The earthquake swarms line up with older volcanoes in the Executive Committee Range, suggesting the volcanic activity there is slowly migrating south by 6 miles (9.6 km) every million years. This migration is perpendicular to the motion of Antarctica’s tectonic plate, so a hotspot or mantle plume is not feeding the volcanoes, Lough said. (A mantle plume should make volcanoes that line up parallel to plate motion, like those of the Hawaiian Islands.)

The big mystery is figuring out why the volcano and its forerunners even exist. “Antarctica is certainly one of the most fascinating and enigmatic of all of Earth’s continents,” Aster said. [Video – Antarctica: Solving Geologic Mysteries]

Let’s set the scene. Antarctica is split by an incredible mountain range. Imagine if Utah’s spectacularly steep Wasatch Mountains cleaved North America from Texas all the way to Canada. That’s what the Transantarctic Mountains are like. In the West, the land dives off into a deep rift valley, where the crust has been tearing apart for about 100 million years. The newly found volcano sits on the other side of this rift, in a higher-elevation region called Marie Byrd Land.

While the torn crust may seem like the best explanation for Antarctica’s many volcanoes, many of the peaks fit no obvious pattern. Rifting and volcanism in Antarctica could be like nowhere else on Earth. “What is going on with the crust in Antarctica is still puzzling,” Lough said.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @OAPlanetFacebook &Google+Original article on LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet.

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Global Warming – Man Made or Normal Cycle?

First, let me start by saying that there is no doubt that the Earth changes average temperature and has done so for a long time.  You can measure growth cycles in ancient trees, read descriptions in old texts, look at water levels, measure layers of dirt for moisture deposits, and so on.  I also know that in the last twenty years or so, the Earth has slightly increased its overall average temperature.  Second, pollution is bad and should be limited and reduced whether or not it causes global warming.

The question is – has man-kind reached a level where we are causing global warming?  I personally do not think so, but I will discuss it here and would like to hear your opinions.

The Man-Made Global Warming Theory and Greenhouse Gases

Humans through industrial activities create “greenhouse gases.”  Carbon dioxide and other gases can trap heat in by not allowing it to escape the atmosphere.  This was pausited because if you put those types of gases in an area they would act like a  “greenhouse.”  I grew up with a greenhouse to raise plants like pineapples and strawberries.  The way it works is that heat comes through the clear glass or plastic walls, but you keep the place full of humidity and all that heat and humidity stays inside.  Heat comes down but does not go up so to speak.  In a laboratory, “greenhouse gases” have the same effect.  Hence, scientists theorizing that as we put more of those into the atmosphere, we create a greenhouse effect where the sun’s heat comes into the atmosphere but some is trapped.  I understand this and don’t dispute the reasoning.

Some of My Reasons for Not Thinking it is Man Made

1)  The problem is, that when they measure it, the Earth does not act like a laboratory or a big greenhouse.  The effect is simply not acting as they expected.  The oceans and the upper atmosphere are not acting as expected.  In many measurements it looks as if they Earth has its own internal countermeasures to prevent rapid temperature changes that we do not fully understand.

In Medieval times we know England was warm and sunny, very different than today.  North Africa used to be the bread basket of the world in Roman times.  North Africa heated up became the Sahara and other deserts and England cooled down long before mankind produced significant greenhouse gases.

2)  If you add up all the industrial pollution of mankind, it is less than just a few volcanic eruptions, such as the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull or the June 15, 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Phillipines, which was the largest eruption of the 20th centurey after the eruption in 1912 of Novarupta in Alaska.  Before that, you had the mother of all eruptions in Krakatoa in 1883.

The Icelandic eruption put up so much ash and gas to stop air travel in Europe a few days.   The Phillipine eruption effects were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10,000,000,000 tonnes (1.1×1010 short tons) or 10 km3 (2.4 cu mi) of magma, and 20,000,000 t (22,000,000 short tons) SO2, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosol into the stratosphere – more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.900 °F), and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially.

Even now, mankind does not have the ability to cause that kind of pollution that occurs in nature.

3)  What is the perfect temperature?  Is the temperature now correct?  Should we be warmer, cooler?  Is the Earth supposed to heat and cool?  What if we could stop that process, should we?

4)  There are two major labs that have studied modern data, and both have recently been beset by scandals over faking data and erasing data.  The one in England:

From the Daily Mail

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’

Chilling error: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrongly asserted that glaciers in the Himalayas would melt by 2035

And NASA in America:

From the Huffington Post:

Is NASA playing fast and loose with climate change science? That’s the contention of a group of 49 former NASA scientists and astronauts.

On March 28 the group sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr., blasting the agency for making unwarranted claims about the role of carbon dioxide in global warming, Business Insider reported.

“We believe the claims by NASA and GISS [NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies], that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data,” the group wrote. “With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.”

The group features some marquee names, including Michael F. Collins, Walter Cunningham and five other Apollo astronauts, as well as two former directors of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The letter included a request for NASA to refrain from mentioning CO2 as a cause of global warming in future press releases and websites. The agency’s “Global Climate Change” webpage says that “Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived “forcing” of climate change.”

5)  Where is the Data?  Hackers broke into the email at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and found proof that researchers had faked data on global warming because it did not fit the theory.  When asked to recalculate the data, they said it had been erased.  NASA has standing public open records requests for its data, which it refuses to release.

My Belief

Pollution is bad, and we don’t need man-made global warming to justify cleaning up our emissions.  Global warming and cooling occur naturally.  At some point, humans may have the power to accidentally or purposefully change global temperatures, but not right now, and not any time soon.  If the whole world agreed to keep the temperature of the Earth the same as it is now, we would not be able to do it.  If we all agreed to heat the Earth by one degree, we could not do it.

What are your Thoughts?


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