An Unexplored Area of Antarctica is Full of Constant Earthquakes

Wednesday, 06 June 2018 - 7:08PM
Earth
Wednesday, 06 June 2018 - 7:08PM
An Unexplored Area of Antarctica is Full of Constant Earthquakes
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Flickr/euphro
We've only ever recorded a handful of earthquakes in Antarctica, and many have assumed that our least popular continent was a very seismically quiet one. 

It turns out, we just haven't been very good at measuring earthquakes in the region, and Antarctica - especially East Antarctica - are fairly active. A team of researchers led by Amanda Lough of Drexel University installed a seismic array in the ice sheet interior of East Antarctica, and it took almost no time before it lit up.

In fact, in 2009 alone, the team recorded 27 earthquakes in East Antarctica. For context, only 9 earthquakes had been recorded in East Antarctica since 1982, and we weren't really measuring before then.



Most of these Antarctic earthquakes, which ranged from 2.1 to 3.9 in magnitude (so they weren't earth-shattering, so to speak) occurred around the Gumburtsev Subglacial Mountains. That's likely because the mountain range is thought to be part of an "ancient continental rift system", according to the new research, which provides plenty of opportunities for tectonic activities.

It seems like there's still a lot we don't know about Antarctica, which may not be too surprising. But we're slowly learning more: just recently, scientists uncovered an ice core dating back a million years, and a large fossil was found not long before that. Thankfully, we've never found anything resembling an H.P. Lovecraft monster just yet, but there's still a lot to learn.

So it's little surprise that the assumption that Antarctica has few earthquakes was mostly based on how little we could actually detect them. It's good that we're starting to learn more about the continent - as climate change increases, Antarctica is already being affected, and we need to know how exactly these ice sheets work.
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