The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) flows through the volcanically active, late Cenozoic West Antarctic rift system. Active subglacial volcanism and a vast (>106 km3) extent of subglacial volcanic structures have been interpreted from aerogeophysical surveys over central West Antarctica in the past decade, combined with results from 1960s and 1970s aeromagnetic profiles over the WAIS. Modelling of magnetic anomalies constrained by radar ice sounding shows volcanic sources at the base of the ice throughout large areas, whose subglacially erupted hyaloclastite edifices have been eroded by moving ice, as in Iceland. The 1800 m-high divide of the WAIS is underlain by the 400 km-long volcanic Sinuous Ridge, which rises above sea level; most hyaloclastite edifices there have also been glacially removed, indicating migration of the ice divide through time. Northeast of the divide of the WAIS there is a 400-nT positive magnetic anomaly over the shallowest, most rugged bedrock topography (elevation +380 m above sea level), probably comprising subaerially erupted flows erupted when the Sinuous Ridge area was deglaciated. Uplift of the Sinuous Ridge may have forced the advance of the WAIS. Other aspects of the subglacial volcanism in Antarctica can be observed in Iceland and have a direct bearing on our understanding of the subglacial conditions of the WAIS and its dynamics.
Additional publication details
Subglacial volcanic features beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet interpreted from aeromagnetic and radar ice sounding