The mystery of volcanoes in Antarctica: a group of Argentines tries to understand how they work

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Scientists settled on an island in the summer that suffered the white continent’s eruptions in 1967, 1969, and 1970, slowing research missions there.

Deception Island in Antarctica (Valentín Carrera/CSIC)
Deception Island in Antarctica (Valentín Carrera/CSIC)

A team of researchers National University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA) spent the summer at the Deepción base in 1948, where they were trying to identify signals that were built on an island that was actually an active volcano with few eruptions recorded in the last 50 years, allowing to understand its behavior.

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In this way, the group reactivated scientific missions that had been halted almost a decade ago. The annual average minimum temperature is 5.5 degrees below zero and the maximum is 1.2 degrees below zero.

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About 1,000 kilometers from the Fuegian city of Ushuaia and about 3,100 kilometers in a straight line from Buenos Aires, the land forms part of a volcanic chain rising from the Antarctic seafloor, three of which contain a dozen formations. emerged as islands (Deception, Bridgeman, and Penguin) and the rest were flooded. Moreover, Deceptión is the only volcano with a historical record of eruption.

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Doctor of Geological Sciences, professor at UBA and researcher at Conicet, Mariano Augusto He stated in his dialogue with the agency. call “While it is true that Antarctica’s most recognizable feature is its massive snow and ice cover and fauna associated with this environment, there are also active volcanoes and In the Antarctic sector of Argentina, the Deepción Island volcano recorded registered and well-documented eruptions in 1967, 1969, and 1970.

“Between the northwestern part of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland archipelago is a strait known as the Fleet Sea (or Bransfield) where the volcanic chain from which Deception Island was born developed.”

The area experiences extreme temperatures throughout the year (Photo: Esther HORVATH / Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / AFP)
The area experiences extreme temperatures throughout the year (Photo: Esther HORVATH / Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / AFP)

“This was discovered by British and Norwegian seal whaling expeditions in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, when whale oil replaced it as a fuel, activity on the island was abandoned due to a drop in its price,” he said.

In this context, he recalled, “Argentina established its Deepción Antarctic base there in 1948, and Chile and the United Kingdom also set up their own facilities.” The 1967 and 1969 explosions destroyed the facilities of both countries that left the island.

“Until the 1967 eruption, the Argentine Deceptión base was permanent,” the researcher said, but From these last chapters, the national State “used its place as a summer base dedicated to the study of volcanology. At the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century, Spain established, among other things, a base for seismological monitoring”.

“With the assignment of a team of five researchers working at that location this summer, Argentina has reactivated its volcanological research in the region after nearly a decade.” August was celebrated.

The research team consisted of the accompanying doctor of Geological Sciences himself. Clara Lamberti, Pablo Forte, Lucas Guerriero and Adriana Ariza Pardo (Invited researcher from Colombia). The work was carried out within the framework of a joint project with the IAA and with the logistical support of Joint Antarctic Command forces.

“Argentine research on the island has focused on the geochemical study of volcanic gases, although it covers aspects of volcanology in general. In addition, due to its special fumarole emissions and thermal waters, which are a major attraction for Antarctic tourism and an almost mandatory stop for cruise ships operating in the region.”

Research missions on the island resumed almost a decade later (paper via Florencia Brunetti / REUTERS)
Research missions on the island resumed almost a decade later (paper via Florencia Brunetti / REUTERS)

Augustus explained “The entire island is an active volcano fueled by an active magma chamber that can erupt in 50 years or a month.”So he stressed that “it’s complicated so far to predict when there might be a lava eruption again” and “whether it will be more or less violent” than before, but what can be done in the meantime” investigate it to identify its characteristics and identify signals that allow us to understand its behavior”.

“We know from the study of rocks, from the geological record of the island, that some eruptions are calmer and others more violent, and this is linked to where they developed on the island, because when magma comes in contact with water, eruptions become more energetic. On the other hand, the composition, flow, and temperature of volcanic gases.” “From examining the current signals we are currently conducting, such as changes in the volcano’s behavior, the goal is to provide a basis with information that allows us to build a model, the basis for identifying the messenger signals of a future reactivation,” he said.

The scientist stressed that the researchers who were on Deceptión this summer, as in his case, were part of the study. Study and Monitoring of Active Volcanoes Group (Gesva), from the UBA and Conicet Institute Idean, which work on this type of geology every summer, often in the Andes such as Copahue in Neuquén or Peteroa in Mendoza, in partnership with other Argentine organizations, the Argentine Volcanic Observatory (Segemar) and CNEA.

“We who work in this discipline know that it is a risky activity, but we take the necessary precautions. On Deception Island we also have the support of seismological information from the Spanish base. (and we expect from Segemar for the next few years as well) knowing if anything out of the ordinary and data pointing to an imminent risk, we know we could be evicted in a day or two by issuing a warning,” he added.

Finally, the expert stressed that “another important aspect is the addition of studies to the volcanological monitoring of Deception Island, which provides more information about the geothermal features of the island and may provide more details about the characteristics of these particular volcanics.” hydrothermal system.

Source: Info Bae

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