The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) flows through the volcanically active West Antarctic Rift System (WARS). The aeromagnetic method has been the most useful geophysical tool for identification of subglacial volcanic rocks, since 1959–64 surveys, particularly combined with 1978 radar ice-sounding. The unique 1991–97 Central West Antarctica (CWA) aerogeophysical survey covering 354,000 km2 over the WAIS, (5-km line-spaced, orthogonal lines of aeromagnetic, radar ice-sounding, and aerogravity measurements), still provides invaluable information on subglacial volcanic rocks, particularly combined with the older aeromagnetic profiles. These data indicate numerous 100–>1000 nT, 5–50-km width, shallow-source, magnetic anomalies over an area greater than 1.2 × 106 km2, mostly from subglacial volcanic sources. I interpreted the CWA anomalies as defining about 1000 “volcanic centers” requiring high remanent normal magnetizations in the present field direction. About 400 anomaly sources correlate with bed topography. At least 80% of these sources have less than 200 m relief at the WAIS bed. They appear modified by moving ice, requiring a younger age than the WAIS (about 25 Ma).
Exposed volcanoes in the WARS are < 34 Ma, but at least four are active. If a few buried volcanic centers are active, subglacial volcanism may well affect the WAIS regime. Aerogeophysical data (Blankenship et al., 1993, Mt. Casertz; Corr and Vaughan, 2008, near Hudson Mts.) indicated active subglacial volcanism. Magnetic data indicate a caldera and a surrounding “low” in the WAISCORE vicinity possibly the result of a shallow Curie isotherm. High heat flow reported from temperature logging in the WAISCORE (Conway et al., 2011; Clow, personal commun.) and a volcanic ash layer (Dunbar, 2012) are consistent with this interpretation. A subaerially erupted subglacial volcano, (Mt Thiel), about 100 km distant, may be the ash source.
The present rapid changes resulting from global warming, could be accelerated by subglacial volcanism.