Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Probably upset a few polar bears

Scientists are discovering massive volcanic activity occurred under the polar ice cap in a way they never believed was possible.

But when a team led of scientists led by Robert Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts finally got a first-ever glimpse of the ocean floor 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) beneath the Arctic pack ice, they were astonished.

What they saw was unmistakable evidence of explosive eruptions rather than the gradual secretion of lava bubbling up from Earth's mantle onto the ocean floor.

Previous research had concluded that this kind of so-called pyroclastic eruption could not happen at such depths due to the crushing pressure of the water.

"On land, explosive volcanic eruptions are nothing exceptional, although they present a major threat," said Vera Schlindwein, a geologist with Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute for Sea and Polar Research, which took part in the study.

But the new findings, published in Nature, showed that "large-scale pyroclastic activity is possible along even the deepest portions of the global mid-ocean ridge volcanic system."

All this volcanic activity (you know, heat) from 1999 wouldn't have anything to do with the ice cap doing a little bit of melting... naaah.