Subglacial volcanic features beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet interpreted from aeromagnetic and radar ice sounding
Published:January 01, 2002
John C. Behrendt, D. D. Blankenship, D. L. Morse, C. A. Finn, R. E. Bell, 2002. "Subglacial volcanic features beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet interpreted from aeromagnetic and radar ice sounding", Volcano–Ice Interaction on Earth and Mars, J. L. Smellie, M. G. Chapman
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The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) flows through the volcanically active, late Cenozoic West Antarctic rift system. Active subglacial volcanism and a vast ( > 106 km3) extent of subglacial volcanic structures have been interpreted from aerogeophysical surveys over central West Antarctica in the past decade, combined with results from 1960s and 1970s aeromagnetic profiles over the WAIS. Modelling of magnetic anomalies constrained by radar ice sounding shows volcanic sources at the base of the ice throughout large areas, whose subglacially erupted hyaloclastite edifices have been eroded by moving ice, as in Iceland. The 1800 m-high divide of the WAIS is underlain by the 400 km-long volcanic Sinuous Ridge, which rises above sea level; most hyaloclastite edifices there have also been glacially removed, indicating migration of the ice divide through time. Northeast of the divide of the WAIS there is a 400-nT positive magnetic anomaly over the shallowest, most rugged bedrock topography (elevation +380m above sea level), probably comprising subaerially erupted flows erupted when the Sinuous Ridge area was deglaciated. Uplift of the Sinuous Ridge may have forced the advance of the WAIS. Other aspects of the subglacial volcanism in Antarctica can be observed in Iceland and have a direct bearing on our understanding of the subglacial conditions of the WAIS and its dynamics.
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Volcano–Ice Interaction on Earth and Mars
This volume focuses on magmas and cryospheres on Earth and Mars and is the first publication of its kind to combine a thematic set of contributions addressing the diverse range of volcano-ice interactions known or thought to occur on both planets. Understanding those interactions is a comparatively young scientific endeavour, yet it is vitally important for a fuller comprehension of how planets work as integrated systems. It is also topical since future volcanic eruptions on Earth may contribute to melting ice sheets and thus to global sea level rise.
Papers included here are likely to influence the choice of sites for future Mars missions in exobiologically important areas. On Earth, snow and ice are widespread, not only in extensive icecaps but also as alpine glaciers at high elevations in tropical regions. By contrast, Mars today is an arid volcanic planet with only small polar ice-caps although an abundance of water is believed to be trapped in the cryolithosphere. It is also thought that the planet may have sustained extensive frozen oceans early in its history. The presence of a former hydrosphere, a cryosphere and coincident volcanism thus make Mars the likeliest prospect for the first discoveries of life away from Earth. Much research has assumed that terrestrial volcano-ice systems are plausible analogues for putative Martian examples, but until mankind finally sets foot on Mars, there is no simple test for that assumption.
Our hope is that the knowledge presented here will stimulate research among planetary geologists in this exciting, rapidly expanding field for many years to come.