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Volcanoes in Antarctica

The exposures of rock in Antarctica tell stories of an ancient continental shield, of volcanic activity and the injection of enormous bodies of hot magma (molten rock) into the crust, and of massive forces deep within the crust deforming and metamorphosing (changing) earlier rock formations.


Volcanoes are an important component of the Antarctic region. They formed in diverse tectonic settings, mainly as a result of mantle plumes acting on the stationary Antarctic plate. The region also includes amongst the world’s best examples of a long-lived continental margin arc (Antarctic Peninsula), a very young marginal basin (Bransfield Strait) and an oceanic island arc (South Sandwich Islands). Many extinct volcanoes are very well preserved and others are still active (e.g. Deception Island, Mount Erebus, and the South Sandwich Islands).

Volcanic eruptions were common during the past 25 million years, and coincided with the great period of climatic deterioration that resulted in the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet. Many of the volcanoes show the effects of interaction with ice. BAS has played a major role in describing these effects and modelling their influences on the resulting volcanic sequences. We need to describe and understand these interactions in geologically recent times in order to predict future configurations of the ice sheet and its role in the global system.