NASA – Supervolcano may be melting Antarctic ice sheet from below

Confirms what I’ve been saying all along!
NASA scientists admit that a massive heat source almost as hot as the Yellowstone supervolcano may be melting the Antarctic ice sheet from below. 

It seems like a no-brainer to me. I mean, how can lakes and rivers be flowing beneath the ice unless there’s a heat source down there? And if sub-glacial volcanoes can be melting the ice, why couldn’t underwater volcanoes be heating the seas?

Note that the press release also admits that the ice sheet went through a period of rapid melting at the end of the last ice age around 11,000 years ago due to changes in weather patterns and rising sea levels.

Do you suppose humans caused those rising sea levels of 11,000 years ago?

Here are excerpts from the NASA press release:

Hot News from the Antarctic Underground

Study Bolsters Theory of Heat Source Under West Antarctica

Illustration of flowing water under the Antarctic ice sheet. Blue dots indicate lakes, lines show rivers. Marie Byrd Land is part of the bulging “elbow” leading to the Antarctic Peninsula, left center. Credits: NSF/Zina Deretsky

A new NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly in an earlier era of rapid climate change, and why it is so unstable today.

The stability of an ice sheet is closely related to how much water lubricates it from below, allowing glaciers to slide more easily. Understanding the sources and future of the meltwater under West Antarctica is important for estimating the rate at which ice may be lost to the ocean in the future.

Antarctic “hot spots”

Antarctica’s bedrock is laced with rivers and lakes, the largest of which is the size of Lake Erie. Many lakes fill and drain rapidly, forcing the ice surface thousands of feet above them to rise and fall by as much as 20 feet (6 meters). The motion allows scientists to estimate where and how much water must exist at the base.

Some 30 years ago, a scientist at the University of Colorado Denver suggested that heat from a mantle plume under Marie Byrd Land might explain regional volcanic activity and a topographic dome feature. Very recent seismic imaging has supported this concept. When Hélène Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, first heard the idea, however, “I thought it was crazy,” she said. “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it.”

With few direct measurements existing from under the ice, Seroussi and Erik Ivins of JPL concluded the best way to study the mantle plume idea was by numerical modeling. They used the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), a numerical depiction of the physics of ice sheets developed by scientists at JPL and the University of California, Irvine. Seroussi enhanced the ISSM to capture natural sources of heating and heat transport from freezing, melting and liquid water; friction; and other processes.

They found that the flux of energy from the mantle plume must be no more than 150 milliwatts per square meter. (emphasis added)

For comparison, in U.S. regions with no volcanic activity, the heat flux from Earth’s mantle is 40 to 60 milliwatts. Under Yellowstone National Park — a well-known geothermal hot spot — the heat from below is about 200 milliwatts per square meter averaged over the entire park… (emphasis added)

Seroussi and Ivins’ simulations using a heat flow higher than 150 milliwatts per square meter showed too much melting to be compatible with the space-based data, except in one location: an area inland of the Ross Sea known for intense flows of water. This region required a heat flow of at least 150-180 milliwatts per square meter to agree with the observations. However, seismic imaging has shown that mantle heat in this region may reach the ice sheet through a rift, that is, a fracture in Earth’s crust such as appears in Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

Mantle plumes are thought to be narrow streams of hot rock rising through Earth’s mantle and spreading out like a mushroom cap under the crust. The buoyancy of the material, some of it molten, causes the crust to bulge upward. The theory of mantle plumes was proposed in the 1970s to explain geothermal activity that occurs far from the boundary of a tectonic plate, such as Hawaii and Yellowstone.

The Marie Byrd Land mantle plume formed 50 to 110 million years ago, long before the West Antarctic ice sheet came into existence. At the end of the last ice age around 11,000 years ago, the ice sheet went through a period of rapid, sustained ice loss (emphasis added) when changes in global weather patterns and rising sea levels pushed warm water closer to the ice sheet — just as is happening today. Seroussi and Ivins suggest the mantle plume could facilitate this kind of rapid loss. (emphasis added)

Their paper, “Influence of a West Antarctic mantle plume on ice sheet basal conditions,” was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team


Last Updated: Nov. 7, 2017
Editor: Tony Greicius
Thanks to Ruth Longridge, Jim S., Don Brown, Stephen Bird and Artur Wojas in Poland for these links

“I would say that they are covering their asses!” says Don. “As global cooling takes hold they now have to look as though they are in touch with what is really happening!”

“The warmests never mention all those sub-glacial volcanoes,” says Ruth. “Many thanks for your wonderful site.”

15 thoughts on “NASA – Supervolcano may be melting Antarctic ice sheet from below

  1. There’s a well known active volcano there, Erebus, and apparently others. At 12,000 some feet, it’s one of the higher mountains there, and Wikipedia also says it’s the highest, which I think might not actually be the case, Vinson Massif being 4,000 feet higher at 16,000 feet?

    It’s unusual to find a continent so remote people don’t even agree on what the highest mountain is, or whether there’s a large thermal area under the ice.

    If so, and I wouldn’t doubt it, then it’s probably not even melting, only isolated areas.

  2. Robert you might find that there is a cyclic increase in volcanic activity during each Grand Solar Minimum due to the Angular Momentum of the Sun 10 year trefoil orbit around the Solar System BarryCentre. Such variations in orbit have gravitational impacts on the Earth crust and plates which form it. Another rift hot spot area Iceland and its various eruptions in phase with GSM over the last 1500 years, perhaps most of the Super Volcanos are similarly affected by the gravity wave crustal flexations. For example The Campi Flegrei.

  3. as commented it WAS know some time back but hushed up/ignored
    its the ass end of the chain of ring of fire volcanos and i remember reading until some of them dropped down the circulation system was radically differentuntil the gap between antarctica and sth america opened up.
    as for unsatble?
    well its ONLY the damn over sea ice snaps off eventually
    little recorded of main chunk glaciers doing a rush to the sea lemming like.

    at WUWT report on the wind turbine at mawson falling off its stand

  4. This statement has to be one of the most ludicrous ones I have ever read –

    “Many lakes fill and drain rapidly, forcing the ice surface thousands of feet above them to rise and fall by as much as 20 feet (6 meters). The motion allows scientists to estimate where and how much water must exist at the base.”

    Obviously, if there is “rapid fill,” there has to be a means of “rapid flow” since water is not going to lift 2 miles of ice an inch, much less 20 feet. Water would not be gently flowing out from under the ice sheet, it would be firing out as if it had a multi ton pump forcing it out if it was “lifting” the ice sheet. To me, this ranks right there with magma coming up under the mid ocean ridges and “forcing the plates sideways” instead of just busting through the far less difficult path straight up.

  5. Just can’t be true.

    Only MAN has the ability to effect Climate, etc. Nature does not have the ability.

    Al Gore said so.

  6. Antarctica must have been a very different place when sea levels were 400 ft lower.
    It must have been huge.

    • Just the reverse. Low sea level mean a colder planet where is a lot of the h20 on northern continents. So colder oceans mean less mass going onto the ice continent. Probably same outflow as this article describes.

  7. So we might have a second Iceland geologically speaking at the bottom of the world. Lovely. Plenty of magma and plenty of water available. One of the things one has to remember about water and magma. When they mix you can get explosive eruptions…. That means gas, ash and global cooling. Examples of this can be found in Iceland and the eruption need not be on the scale of a VEI 8 eruption like Yellowstone or Toba. Something like a Krakatoa , Tambora ,Grimsvatn or even a Laki type eruption would disrupt the climate and cause serious problems for humanity.
    If you had enough of these VEI 5 to 7 eruptions in short order below average temps could persist for quite a while just like during the dark ages or the little ice age. It is like the difference between a 50 cal. sniper rifle and a shot gun. The projectiles might be different sizes but both can kill.

  8. The only problem in their thoery is that NASA just announced that sea levels are dropping. This means that what ever is happening in the west of Antarctica is being over come by the increasing of the east where it’s been reported massive growth in depth is taking place.

    Interesting. May be the various parties should look into research other than their own or could they have an agenda?

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