Any one eruption could destabilize the ice sheets.
Researchers have found the largest volcanic region on earth 2 kilometers beneath the icy surface of Antarctica. Its size surpassed that of East Africa’s volcanic ridge after nearly 100 volcanoes were discovered, raising the number of known Antarctic volcanoes to 138.
The Guardian reports that while eruptions would not reach the surface, they could melt the ice from underneath. Robert Bingham, one of the paper’s authors, explains:
If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilize west Antarctica’s ice sheets. Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea. The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.
Bingham teamed with graduate student Max Van Wyk de Vries and the duo pored over previously made surveys and data taken by ice-penetrating radar. They searched for evidence of volcanoes under the ice, which make cone-like protrusions sticking up into the ice. The pair were astounded when their findings tripled the number of volcanoes known to be in Antarctica.
While there are no measures that can be taken to prevent these volcanoes from erupting, scientists will continue to monitor seismic and volcanic activity in Antarctica.