Antarctic Melt Could Increase Volcanic Activity

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The risks of ice sheet melt in Antarctica could include increased volcanic activity there and speed sea-level rise, reports a new study led by Newcastle University.

In 2002, the collapse of the Larson B ice shelf was a wake-up call to those studying climate change. Afterward, researchers used GPS systems to track the response of the mantle to the loss of the massive ice shelf.

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The mantle rose, as expected, but by about five times more than researchers could attribute to the loss of billions of tons of ice. And that movement could have implications for active volcanoes in Antarctica, Matt King, who lead the project and is now at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s one of the big unknowns: If something starts to happen with one of those volcanoes, our estimates of what sea levels might be like in the future may have a significant revision,” King said. "Fire and ice generally don’t go well together."

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“It’s a big ‘if’ -- but if a volcano erupted from underneath the ice sheet, it would dramatically accelerate the ice melt and the flows into the oceans.”

via The Sydney Morning Herald

Photo: Mount Erebus' steamy, flaring pit. It's the second-highest volcano in Antarctica (after Mount Sidley). Credit: Nick Powell/National Science Foundation

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