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Massive Earthquake Swarm in Antarctica Suggest Sleeping Volcano Awakening

Massive Earthquake Swarm in Antarctica Suggest Sleeping Volcano Awakening

The swarm of 8500 earthquakes lasted three months in 2020 and was triggered by a ‘finger’ of magma.

There is some intriguing analysis that has just been released about a massive swarm of earthquakes that occurred in Antarctica in 2020.

A ‘swarm’ of 85,000 earthquakes in Antarctica that lasted about six months in 2020 was triggered by magma from an underwater volcano, a new study says.

The swarm occurred at Orca Seamount, a deep-sea volcano near King George Island in Antarctica, in the Bransfield Strait, which has been inactive for ‘a long time’.

Researchers have used seismometers and remote sensing techniques to determine how long the swarm lasted, and what caused it.

Swarm quakes mainly occur in volcanically active regions, so the movement of magma in the Earth’s crust is therefore suspected as the cause.

During the swarm, ground on neighbouring King George Island moved 4.3 inches (11cm) – suggesting a ‘finger’ of magma almost reached the surface, the scientists report in their new study.

The international team of researchers said the swarm was the most intense earthquake activity ever recorded in the region.

“There have been similar intrusions in other places on Earth, but this is the first time we have observed it there,” study co-author Simone Cesca, a seismologist at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, told Live Science.

“Normally, these processes occur over geologic time scales,” as opposed to over the course of a few months, Cesca said. “So in a way, we are lucky to see this.”

The scientists used a variety of methods to track the swarm and its geophysical effects, including analyzing data from seismic stations in the region and satellites orbiting the Earth.

This data shed light on the potential causes of the huge swarm. According to the researchers, the movement of magma into the crust could explain the seismic activity.

The human contributions to “climate change” are dwarfed by volcanoes. The scale of the Antarctic volcanoes is not fully known, given the challenges of studying at that latitude. However, there is a strong possibility that a super-volcano could be under the massive ice sheets.

It’s not easy to see what’s going on below Antarctica’s ice sheet.

On average the ice is 2.6km thick. At its deepest, it is 4.7km down.

So NASA has taken all we know — from satellite and airborne observations through to every piece of applicable physics they could think of — and bundled it all together in a new simulation.

The end product of the calculations which reproduced the processes of friction, heat transport and liquid water behaviour revealed there has to be another source of energy down there.

A mantle plume fits the bill.

This mantle plume — some of which are known as supervolcanos — pumps out some 200 milliwatts of energy per square meter.

The background heating from beneath the Earth in non-geologically active areas is about 40 to 60 milliwatts.

The one under Antarctica appears to be roughly in the same league, at up to 150 milliwatts.

Any hotter and the simulations show the ice sheet melting too much to fit observations — except for one spot near the Ross Sea.

Intense flows of water have been seen here. The simulations needed up to 180 milliwatts of energy to produce similar results.

And those worried about climate extinction might like to reflect on the fact that the last time a super-volcano erupted, it almost wiped-out our species.

Professor Danisik and colleagues have studied Lake Toba in Sumatra, an apparently idyllic body of water that actually occupies the caldera of a supervolcano, measuring about 100km by 30km (62 by 19 miles) across.

This supervolcano is believed to have erupted roughly 74,000 years ago, and some researchers believe the eruption released six billion tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, leading global temperatures to plummet by 15C (59F) for three years afterwards.

While this scientific analysis of the impact of the eruption is disputed, scientists have suggested that the eruption caused a genetic bottleneck in human evolution.

The hypothesis is that between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations rapidly shrunk to just 3,000-10,000 individuals, a claim for which there is some genetic evidence.

Given the rock-hard science behind volcanic impact on the Earth’s climate, I find I cannot get worked-up about SUVs and cow farts.


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UnCivilServant | April 30, 2022 at 6:11 pm

For some reason, all I can think of is how I haven’t read “At the Mountains of Madness” in a while.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to UnCivilServant. | April 30, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    “Given the rock-hard science behind volcanic impact on the Earth’s climate, I find I cannot get worked-up about SUVs and cow farts.”

    I agree, the truth is that all of humanity is puny and insignificant in the face of such forces.

“leading global temperatures to plummet by 15C (59F)”

Problem here. Either “by” should be “to”, or “59F” should be “27F”.


    Publius_2020 in reply to gibbie. | April 30, 2022 at 6:57 pm

    The mistake is in the Sky News article that is quoted. It is supposed to be 27F.

    Not surprisingly, you should take a big helping of salt with any “science” article that can’t get the Fahrenheit conversion right. In reality, the hard science doesn’t really support even the 15C hypothesis — more likely something like 3-4C — and the sediment studies in Africa don’t support the notion that this event had a material effect on humans. (Of course, the notion that modern humans would be “endangered” by even a 20F drip in temperature is laughable, as anyone from Montreal can tell you.)

Suggests sleeping volcano awakening:

At first I thought it said the voters were awakening. But I was mistaken. Volcano is awakening. Voters are still asleep.

I’m waiting for the Democrats to blame the reawakening volcano on human-caused climate change. When it starts erupting, they will say, “How can anyone look at this terrible tragedy and deny the fact that humans have changed the planet’s climate?”

After all, they are still blaming Katrina on climate change, even though it was an average-sized Gulf hurricane that hit a spot that everyone knew was vulnerable. Every tornado, “Climate change!” Every hurricane, “Climate change!” Every drought or flood, “Climate change!”

JohnSmith100 | April 30, 2022 at 7:58 pm

Perhaps you underestimate the impact of Moochelle Obama’s farts?

If putting it back to sleep i on the table, I believe Michael Jackson’s doctor is out of prison…. 😮

The other genetic bottleneck in human evolution will be traced to the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

We know a lot about volcanoes here. Once emerged from the earth, the two greatest hindrances are deep ocean or massive glaciers. Both have slowed the danger immensely until the volcano manages to get within 1,500-600 feet to the surface when the water itself contributes to the danger. As for glaciers, they have been known to suppress volcanic eruptions for thousands of years by sheer weight and quenching water hardening the emerging lava and creating pillows of small dams.

    The_Mew_Cat in reply to puhiawa. | May 2, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    Antarctica is under 3 miles of ice. Of course, all that weight can only contain it for so long until the pressure is enough to blow it. We can safely say that this one hasn’t blown significantly in many millions of years, as the ice has been accumulating that long. If this one blew, our biggest problem will be sea level rise. We are talking hundreds of feet of sea level here if the whole continent melted.

I remember when St. Helens was active. Living north of it by 100 miles, there wasn’t much local effect other than a dusting of ash on my car a couple times. But within the blast zone and eastward along the path of the ash cloud was catastrophic. A forest leveled, a lake evaporated, river altered and silted up. People stranded along I-90 taking shelter at gas stations, restaurants, etc., and allowed to leave only by convoy led by state troopers – and at a crawl to keep the dust down. Engines at the time were mostly down-draft carburetors. which destroyed engines when ash (glass) entered the intake.

A few months after eruption, I remember driving between Spokane and Seattle – the rolling hills around Ritzville were a grayish white – and the pavement that is I-90 were like black ribbons through a moonscape. I remember trudging to the top of a hill to snap a photo and the ash crunched beneath my feet, sometimes up to my ankles. It took months to clear I-90 and years to restore the farm land to where it could be cultivated, planted and harvested.

If a supervolcano erupts, the effect on temperature is the least of the problems it will cause.

    smalltownoklahoman in reply to MrE. | April 30, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    “If a supervolcano erupts, the effect on temperature is the least of the problems it will cause.”

    Very true, the amount of ash and dangerous gases released by such eruptions can be devastating for hundreds of miles around the volcano. Believe I saw a map years ago showing the spread from some of the previous Yellowstone supervolcano eruptions: covered a significant chunk of the western U.S.

      I’ll have to look for those maps/studies. I’d have thought the prevailing winds would have carried the ash eastward over the midwest and eastern seaboard. Localized to Delaware and DC would be a welcome fall out zone. 😉

        OwenKellogg-Engineer in reply to MrE. | May 1, 2022 at 8:19 am

        Research the Lake volcano of 1783 to understand the long lasting effects of gases and ash in crops and livestock, let alone climate.

      The_Mew_Cat in reply to smalltownoklahoman. | May 2, 2022 at 8:28 pm

      Yeah, but if a supervolcano blew at the south pole, we wouldn’t see all that much ash up here in North America. Sea level rise would be our biggest problem. A few hundred feet of rise happening very fast would be a very very big problem.

smalltownoklahoman | April 30, 2022 at 9:58 pm

Nice channel to follow to keep up with what’s happening with volcanos around the world, updates pretty regularly.

    Thanks for the link. The recent Mt. Edgecombe video caught my eye. I was in Sitka, AK with my high school youth group during a 7.6 earthquake on July 30, 1972. I remember looking out my dorm window at Sheldon Jackson College and marvelling at the sidewalks rolling like a flag flapping in the wind. We were evacuated to the cemetary up the hill to wait out the tsunami threat. Fun memory of sitting on tombstones with our guitars and holding an impromtu sing along with townsfolk. 😉

thalesofmiletus | May 1, 2022 at 1:46 am

“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.”

So, an earthquake swarm two years ago is ‘news’?

    smalltownoklahoman in reply to JBnID. | May 1, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Well a super volcano erupting under Antarctica could be bad for the sheer amount of ice it could melt in a short amount of time. Not to mention since this volcano seemed to be an underwater one tsunami potential for Southern Hemisphere could be catastrophic.

The earth is largely self regulating in terms of world wide climate. Mankind is feeble in comparison to the power of the forces of nature. That doesn’t mean we should deliberately do environmental damage, no we should be good stewards using proven conservation and land management practices.

The more ardent environmentalists don’t practice what they preach and until they adapt their lifestyle to their extremist and alarmist claims they can pound sand. Sell your coastal estates, downsize to a tiny house, swear off any flights, rely on point of use solar and wind, eat your self grown produce. Purchasing carbon credits and providing virtuous lectures is no substitute.

“The human contributions to “climate change” are dwarfed by volcanoes. The scale of the Antarctic volcanoes is not fully known, given the challenges of studying at that latitude. However, there is a strong possibility that a super-volcano could be under the massive ice sheets.”

They don’t even know WHETHER a super-volcano is there.

We do know from past experience that a single volcanic eruption can give the world two years of winter.

JohnSmith100 | May 1, 2022 at 8:41 pm

Carbon credits are a huge con to get developed countries to grease undeveloped country’s palms. This is more shit hole country scheming to get unearned income.

MoeHowardwasright | May 1, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Cause and Effect?? The alarmists have been pointing to the thinning and breaking away of the Antarctic ice sheet. Hmmm…could this reawakening volcano have anything to do with this phenomenon? (Rhetorical) of course it does. Both the Arctic and Antarctic have been ice free and temperate in the past. That science is settled by the way. I would accept the 3’ rise in the ocarina just to ruin the Bamster’s homes on the water in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard.

American Human | May 2, 2022 at 8:43 am

I’m pretty sure its another Aliens VS Predator fight brewing.

Not a lot of ice cap on that part of the Antarctic Peninsula. Location is next to a string of islands offshore. There is pack ice, though.

A really big eruption in that part of the world would tend to have its material confined by circumpolar winds and the Southern Ocean. It is one of the reasons really big eruptions in the north (Paektu / Baekdu 946 AD – 100 – 120 km3 material) tend to do less global climate damage than those nearer to the equator (Tambora 1815, 160 – 210 km3). Cheers –