Antarctic ice loss may prompt volcanic activity and Earthquakes

This, in turn would lead to a rise in the global sea-level, study suggests.

The researchers from the Newcastle University, UK with the help of the Global Positioning System (GPS) stations analysed the effect of the breakdown of the massive Larsen B ice sheet in the year 2002. 

It also led them to understand how the Earth's mantle responded to the relatively unexpected loss of billions of tonnes of ice as glaciers accelerated.

Professor King said in a statement, "It's like the earth in 2002 was prodded by a stick, a very big stick, and we've been able to watch how it responded. We see the earth as being tremendously dynamic and always changing, responding to the forces." 

He further commented, "It's one of the big unknowns: If something starts to happen with one of those volcanoes, our estimates of what sea levels might be like in the future may have a significant revision. Fire and ice generally don't go well together".

Such dynamism involves rocks that are hundreds of kilometers below the surface moving swiftly and could pose implications for volcanoes in the area.

In the words of Professor King, "It's a big 'if' - but if a volcano erupted from underneath the ice sheet, it would dramatically accelerate the ice melt and the flows into the oceans."

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in the year 2013 projected that the global sea levels could rise between about 0.5 and 1 meter by the year 2100, depending on high rates of greenhouse gas emissions. 

With a rapid breakdown of the Antarctic ice sheets, the western region of the continent, could witness much higher sea-level rises.

The new research, published in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters this month, may also impact regions with somewhat similar geology, such as Alaska. 

Professor Matt King said in a statement, "The Alaskan glaciers are melting and the upper mantle is slightly runnier as well."

He further said that an earthquake of a greater intensity is expected in the region with the tectonic plates coming into contact.


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