91 volcanoes found under Antarctic ice

The volcano Mt. Erebus near the U.S Antarctic McMurdo Base. Source: AAP

Following a suggestion from a student, British scientists have discovered what could be the largest volcanic region on earth under an Antarctic ice sheet.

Scientists believe they have found the largest volcanic region on earth - under the ice of Antarctica.

A remote survey discovered 91 volcanoes ranging in height from 100m to 3850m in a massive region known as the West Antarctic Rift System.

Geologists and ice experts say the range has similarities to east Africa's volcanic ridge, acknowledged to be the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.

University of Edinburgh researchers remotely surveyed the underside of the ice sheet for hidden peaks of basalt rock, like those of other volcanoes in the region whose tips push above the ice.

They analysed the shape of the land beneath using measurements from ice-penetrating radar and compared the findings with satellite and database records, as well as geological information from aerial surveys.

The study, which is the first of its kind, was proposed by Max van Wyk de Vries, a third-year student at the University of Edinburgh.

Scientists hope it will help them understand how volcanoes can influence long-term fluctuations in the ice sheet and how the continent has changed in past climates.

The study has been published in the Geological Society Special Publications series.

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