Volcanoes melting Antarctic glaciers from below

Dive below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and you’ll find fire as well as ice, says this article by Stephanie Pappas.

Thwaits Glacier
The edge of the Thwaites glacier – NASA photo by Jim Yungel

“A new study finds that subglacial volcanoes and other geothermal “hotspots” are contributing to the melting of Thwaites Glacier, a major river of ice that flows into Antarctica’s Pine Island Bay,” says Pappas.

“Areas of the glacier that sit near geologic features thought to be volcanic are melting faster than regions farther away from hotspots, said Dustin Schroeder, the study’s lead author and a geophysicist at the University of Texas.”

“This melting could significantly affect ice loss in the West Antarctic, an area that is losing ice quickly.”

Using radar data from satellites in orbit, the researchers found subglacial streams flowing beneath the Thwaites Glacier that were too full to be explained by flow from upstream. This indicated unusually high melt, said Schroeder.

When the researchers checked out the subglacial geology in the region, they found that fast-melting spots were disproportionately clustered near confirmed West Antarctic volcanoes, suspected volcanoes or other presumed hotspots.

Geothermal heat – not climate change! – is melting the glacier from below.

The minimum average heat flow beneath Thwaites Glacier is almost double the average of the rest of the continents, the researchers found. In some areas, average heat flow is more than triple the average. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed.

The extra melt caused by subglacial volcanoes could hasten the ice sheet’s flow toward the sea, Schroeder said.

Researchers have long known that volcanoes lurk under the ice of West Antarctica, because it is a seismically active region where East and West Antarctica are rifting apart, says Pappas. “In 2013, a team of scientists even found a new volcano beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” (Rifting is associated with the movement of magma and volcanic activity.)

The findings “show that the glacier sits on something more like a multi-burner stovetop with burners putting out heat at different levels at different locations,” says phys.org/news.

Schroeder and his colleagues at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) plan to expand their study to other glaciers in the region.

Note: I’m really encouraged to learn about this study. Now I wish we could see more studies about how underwater volcanoes heat the seas. I’ve been harping about them for years. In fact, there’s an entire chapter about the unacknowledged importance of underwater volcanoes (entitled “Fish Stew”) in Not by Fire but by Ice.


Geothermal heat – not climate change! – is melting the glacier from below:



Thanks to Laurel, Alex Piccinini, Nelson Isada, Chris Beal, Jesus Eduardo Herrera Flores and Jack Hydrazine for these links

“A few weeks ago it was all because of Man Kind,” says Chris.


15 thoughts on “Volcanoes melting Antarctic glaciers from below”

  1. I wouldn’t be too concerned Robert. Those volcanoes are going to melt some ice and put more fresh water into the oceans. This might undermine the thermo haline circulation system and we will have cooling any way. In any case it has nothing to do with people or CO2 and it can’t be stopped any way. Just watch and learn.

  2. Wow, So West and East Antarctica ARE tearing apart! All this time, I was told that is a “dead rift zone”! I guess the Western portion is headed north in the Atlantic and the Eastern portion will head into the Pacific in a few million years hence. It is sort of like the East Africa rift zone which is tearing itself apart in the Danikel/Afar region, the Sana hills are sinking FAST too.

  3. Clearly… The log normal rise in CO2 and green house gasses as measured under the Western Glaciers of Antarctica are demonstrating a direct relationship to the rise in sea level temperature and glacial ice melt. Based on this localized data. We can further extrapolate that man made AGW is contributing directly to world wide sea level rise and glacial ice melt….. Now taken in proper context, the geothermal contributions to sea temperature rise and ice melt in the localized area of interest comprise less than .1% of Earth’s surface. Furthermore, a .1% sample size is not statistically significant to qualify as a proper sampling size to extrapolate these localized observations to world wide sea level temperature rise, glacial ice melt, and sea level rise.

    Of course for a healthy seven figure stipend we can create a fully accredited study and LLC trustee that will observe the effects and contribution of man made green house gasses relative to the localized area of measurement, and demonstrate on a world wide percentage basis vs the sample size, that the world wide AGW gasses comprise a higher percentage of overall greenhouse gas contribution than previously contemplated.

    The theorem will further proffer ways in which economic incentives and mechanisms can be implemented to reduce and discourage activities that generate AGW gasses while creating incentive mechanisms that allow green energy power sources to compete, and outproduce conventional carbon based alternatives on a cost per BTU basis…. Further more the trust will be used to make available the seed capital required to create and invest in these alternative energy sources. Profits will be directed to further investments and payment to the trustees. LMAO. No Really.

    • Steevo: youve obviously written submissions before..
      there are at least 3..Aussie Unis that would fund you for this.
      please dont apply 🙂
      they dont know sarcasm when it bites em

  4. This was actually presented in a PBS piece about a decade ago. I don’t think that it aired more than once. But the exact same information was presented showing how the melted water from the volcanic heating acted as a lubricant which caused the glacier to move much faster toward the sea. Glad to see the info finally resurfacing.

  5. Frankly the warmists will need their own CO2 to breathe in order to stop their hyperventilating due to their outrage over things not going their way as the next ice age sets in, in the near future. There will be no global warming to save them from the global cooling. The only source or sensation of fire they will feel is ridicule, hell fire,freezer burn, camp fire, their home heating system and may be the flames as they are burned at the stake by their intended victims. As for the volcanoes under the ice in Antarctica they will melt some ice and probably do what volcanoes in Iceland do when possible. Erupt!

  6. Okay, so at that point (or those points) under glacier melting is faster. But I thought that Antarctica was gaining ice.

    I hope anyone using the term “greenhouse gasses” realize that a real greenhouse has a roof on it to hold the heat in. The atmosphere doesn’t have a roof.

    And Robert, surely there have been underwater volcanoes since there have been oceans on Earth. You’d think, if they actually warm the oceans, the oceans would be at a simmer by now at the very least. Water is dense and there is an amazing amount of it in the oceans. (328 million cubic miles.) I seriously doubt if the underwater volcanoes has any world-wide effect on ocean temperatures. Locally and close to the volcano, of course. But the cold, dense water at the bottom of the oceans quickly dissipates that heat.

    • When I started writing Not by Fire but by Ice, scientists thought there were about 10,000 underwater volcanoes. Now, NASA estimates that there are more than three MILLION underwater volcanoes. That adds up to a lot of heat.

  7. 97% of scientists** agree that:
    1. volcanoes are cold, not hot;
    2. geothermal heat would not melt ice.
    3. there are no volcanoes in or near Antarctica;
    4. volcanoes are only activated by global warming;
    5. if a volcano emits hot gases and molten material, it is George Bush’s fault.

    ** 97% of all scientists who get paid by the White House….

  8. Read Lord Baron’s writings from the 1600’s and make your own determination as to where we are today concerning the agenda of the world elitist.

    Am beginning to wonder if the phoenix on back of dollar U.S. bill is in full bloom?

    Am again beginning to quest the actions needed to be taken now to counter the effects of agenda against America.

    Gonna be bloody!!

  9. Another learned report and another case of the more you find out the less you know and if you don’t know the cause has to be anthropogenic global warming.

  10. The problem with this study is that these findings cannot be regulated by the U.S. EPA and this WH administration’s political agenda, and therefore, must be wrong. You know, ’cause like, global warming can ONLY be the result of us burning fossil fuels and stuff.

    Expect an immediate dismissal by AGW scientists as to its relevance in the “settled” science of climate change.

  11. I remember when in the late 90’s they found the Pine Island Glacier was moving faster in its middle than on its edges…..a volcano was the cause.It’s about time these warmers read the recent past.
    The ONLY source of heat on this planet is the sun, in one form or another.

Comments are closed.