Wed, Mar

Student's idea leads to Antarctic volcano discovery


An Edinburgh student has helped identify what may be the largest volcanic region on Earth.

A study conceived by undergraduate Max Van Wyk de Vries has revealed that West Antarctica’s vast ice sheet conceals almost 100 newly discovered volcanoes. The largest of these is as tall as the Eiger in Switzerland.

Max, a third-year student in the School of GeoSciences, came up with the idea by analysing publically available radar mapping data of Antarctica.

He proposed his study to researchers in the School, who were impressed by the quality of Max’s work and used their expertise to verify the presence of the volcanoes.

Geologists and ice experts say the range has many similarities to East Africa’s volcanic ridge, which is currently acknowledged to be the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.

Researchers remotely surveyed the underside of the ice sheet for hidden peaks of basalt rock, like those of other volcanoes in the region whose tips push above the ice.

They analysed the shape of the land beneath the ice using measurements from ice-penetrating radar, and compared the findings with satellite and database records, as well as geological information from aerial surveys.

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