Rare Lake of Bubbling Lava Discovered on Remote Antarctic Island


This false-color satellite picture of Mount Michael reveals the lava lake (in red) within the volcano – just the 8th consistent lake of molten rock ever discovered. The inset reveals the area of Saunders Island.

Credit: Landsat 8/British Antarctic Study


A big lake of sizzling hot lava has actually been discovered in a volcano on a remote sub-Antarctic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. It’s just the 8th lake of molten rock ever discovered on Earth.


Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the British Antarctic Study (BACHELOR’S DEGREE) discovered this rare lava lake on Saunders Island in the South Sandwich Islands, about 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometers) north of the eastern edge of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea. [See Photos of Another Lava Lake in Antarctica]


By taking a look at satellite images of the unoccupied island in between 2003 and 2018, the scientists discovered that the snow-covered volcano of Mount Michael on Saunders Island, typically masked from view by heavy clouds, includes a lake of lava within its crater, in between 300 and 700 feet (90 and 215 meters) in size.


Measurements reveal that the molten rock in the lava lake is hot: in between 1,812 and 2,334 degrees Fahrenheit (989 and 1,279 degrees Celsius).


Saunders Island is part of a remote volcanic chain referred to as the South Sandwich Islands. They are organized with the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia and designated as a British Abroad Area.


The island and volcanic mountain were “extremely difficult to access, and without high-resolution satellite imagery it would have been very challenging to learn more about this amazing geological feature,” lead author of the brand-new research study, UCL geographer Danielle Gray, stated in a declaration.


Although bubbling lakes of lava are a typical image connected to volcanoes, just 7 have actually been discovered prior to, stated BAS geologist Alex Burton-Johnson, a co-author of the brand-new research study. [10 Most Hazardous Countries For Volcanoes (Photos)]


Researchers had actually understood about a temperature level anomaly over the volcano on Saunders Island for a number of years, however a BACHELOR’S DEGREE research study of satellite photos in 2001 wasn’t able to identify what triggered it, Burton-Johnson informed Live Science.

Volcanic Mount Michael on remote Saunders Island in the sub-Antarctic South Sandwich Islands is always covered by snow and usually veiled by clouds.

Volcanic Mount Michael on remote Saunders Island in the sub-Antarctic South Sandwich Islands is constantly covered by snow and typically veiled by clouds.

Credit: Bucktrout/British Antarctic Study


Due to the fact that the island is so remote, extremely couple of scientists have actually ever been to Mount Michael. “It has been visited at the bottom very rarely, and no one has ever got to the summit.”


However the most recent research study utilized high-resolution satellite photos of the mountain, taken in wavelengths of light developed to highlight any geothermal activity. Those photos revealed conclusively that the crater of Mount Michael includes a lake of molten rock, he stated, although the scientists have not had the ability to identify how far it lies listed below the rim of the volcano.


While lots of volcanoes toss out lava when they appear and form momentary swimming pools and lakes of molten rock, these typically dry into strong rock within a couple of days or weeks, he stated.


The other 7 consistent lakes of lava are: the volcanoes of Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Erta Ale in Ethiopia; Mount Erebus next to the Ross Sea in Antarctica; Mount Yasur in Vanuatu; the volcanic island of Ambrym in Vanuatu; Kilauea in Hawaii; and the Masaya caldera in Nicaragua.


Geologists were at first puzzled regarding why lava from deep within the Earth dries into rock around many of the 1,500 approximately volcanoes on Earth however remains liquid in simply a couple of locations, Burton-Johnson stated. [Antarctica Photos: Meltwater Lake Hidden Beneath the Ice]


They later on figured out that the heat from eruptions of volcanic gases, such as steam, sulfur dioxide and co2, might keep some lava lakes at a high adequate temperature level to keep them molten, he stated.


That seems the case on Mount Michael on Saunders Island, which has actually consisted of a consistent lake of lava given that a minimum of 2003, and most likely longer.


Burton-Johnson stated the next action would be for somebody to fly an airplane or an aerial drone over the crater of Mount Michael to take photos of the lava lake, however that might take years to set up.


“The problem is that the South Sandwich Islands are so incredibly remote, there is very little ship traffic that goes past there,” he stated. “So there are not a huge amount of opportunities for research vessels in that area.”


Their research study is released in the most recent problem of the journal Volcanology and Geothermal Research Study.


Initial post on Live Science.



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