Modeled Aeromagnetic Anomalies, Controlled By Radar Ice Sounding, As Evidence for Subglacial Volcanic Activity in the West Antarctic Rift System (WR) Beneath the Area of the Divide of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
John C Behrendt, US Geological Survey, Crustal Studies, Denver, CO, United States; Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
The Thwaites and Pine Island ice shelves, buttressing the WAIS, have passed the turning point as they are eaten away by warmer ocean waters (Joghin et al., 2014; Rignot et al., 2014).

There is an increasing evidence (aeromagnetic, radar ice–sounding, high heat flow, subglacial volcanic seismicity, and several exposed and subglacial active volcanoes), for volcanic activity in the WR beneath the WAIS, which flows through it. The 5-km, orthogonally line spaced, central West Antarctica (CWA) aerogeophysical survey defined >400 high amplitude volcanic magnetic anomalies correlated with glacial bed topography. Modeled anomalies defined magnetic properties; interpreted volcanic edifices were mostly removed by the moving ice into which they were erupted. Very high apparent susceptibility contrasts (.001->.3 SI) are typical of measured properties from volcanic exposures in the WAIS area. About 90% of the magnetic sources have normal magnetization in the present field direction. Two explanations as to why the anomalies are not approximately 50% negative: (1) Volcanic activity resulting in these anomalies occurred in a predominantly normal field (unlikely). (2) Sources are a combination of induced and remanent magnetization resulting in anomalies of low amplitude (induced cancels remanent) and are not recognized because they are <100 nT (most probable).

About 18 high relief, (~600-2000 m) “volcanic centers“ beneath the WAIS surface, probably were erupted subaerially when the WAIS was absent; nine of these are in the general area beneath the divide of the WAIS. A 70-km wide, ring of interpreted subglacial volcanic rocks may define a volcanic caldera underlying thedivide (Behrendt et al., 1998). A 2 km-high subaerially erupted volcano (subglacial Mt Thiel, ~78o30’S, 111oW) ~ 100 km north of the WAISCORE, could be the source an ash layer observed in the core. Models by Tulaczyk and Hossainzadeh (2011) indicate >4mm/yr basal melting beneath the WAIS, supportive of high heat flow and the presence of subglacial lakes. These various lines of evidence lead to the general interpretation that the ice divide area of the WAIS overlies present to recent subglacial volcanic activity that may have an influence on the past and future behavior of the WAIS.