Several kilometers under the ice, researchers have found evidence of an active volcano spewing large amounts of heat under Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier.
(From Tech Times/ By Nicole Arce) — By accident, a team of scientists from the University of Rhode Island’s School of Oceanography have discovered biochemical proof of the existence of a volcanic heat source sitting just beneath West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, which is already in danger of melting rapidly into the surrounding oceans because of heat from climate change.
In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers say the heat source produces half as much heat as Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most active volcano, which is roughly 25 times as much heat produced by one dormant volcano.
Helium Isotope Signifies Volcanic Activity
Led by chemical oceanographer Brice Loose, the team gleaned their findings from data collected during an expedition onboard the RRS James Clark Ross icebreaker in the Antarctic summer of 2014.
At the time, Loose and his colleagues were collecting water samples on the western coast of Antarctica with the objective of better understanding the ocean’s contributing to the rapidly melting ice shelf.
They were looking for traces of noble gases, including helium and xenon, but their findings have led to a new discovery that changes the way researchers approach the study of Antarctica’s fast-melting ice.
The researchers discovered helium-3, a helium isotope that is almost exclusively found in the mantle and a significant pointer of volcanic activity. At first, they thought they were mistaken, but further testing confirmed the presence of helium-3 in the waters off the coast of the Pine Island Glacier, indicating that there is some form of volcanic activity taking place underneath.
“When you find helium-3, it’s like a fingerprint for volcanism,” Loose says. “We found that it is relatively abundant in…