In Latest West Antarctic Glacial Melt Scare, Influence of Geological Heat Flow Ignored

Figure 1.) Image of Pine Island Glacier area including surrounding known to be actively heat flowing geological features; Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region, Mount Takahe Volcanic Region, and fault down-dropped valleys. (individual volcanoes as red circles, down-dropped fault valleys outlined in black).

Mainstream media articles promoting the latest West Antarctic Glacial Melt Scare, e.g.,  calving of the Pine Island Glacier, have once again ignored the very likely influence of sub-glacial geologically induced bedrock heat flow (see the  Washington Post, New York Daily News, USA Today, and Weather Channel).

This latest Melt Scare is especially biased because the Pine Island Glacier is surrounded by numerous previously known active high-heat flowing and glacial ice-melting bedrock geological features: the Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region, Mount Takahe Volcanic Region, and Fault down-dropped valleys (see Figure 1).

This article will provide the reader with an understanding of how local and regional sub-glacial geologically induced heat flow impacts the recent bottom melting, fracturing, and calving of the Pine Island Glacier. Detailed discussions concerning the obligation of major mainstream news outlets to report all relevant information, not just carefully selected pro-climate change information, will be left for others to debate.

The Pine Island Glacier is immediately adjacent to a proven and currently active geologically induced high heat flow area, the Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region (Figure 1). These mountains were formed by numerous pre-glacial volcanic eruptions and associated lava flows.

The erupting volcanoes were and still are fueled by several deep Earth reaching faults. Faults that are part of the giant 3,500-mile-long  West Antarctic Rift / Fault System. Even today many faults along the Rift System, including those in the Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region, are acting to:

  • Provide open pathways from deep inner Earth hot molten lava pockets upward to the bedrock / glacial ice interface.
  • Fuel 150 semi-active, active, or currently erupting sub-glacial and ocean floor volcanoes.
  • Rip the entire Antarctic Continent apart, thereby forming West and East Antarctic continental. segments.
  • Directly affect the Pine Island Glacier by bottom melting the ice.

The massive and greatly underappreciated heat flow power of this 3,500-mile-long rift/fault system been the focus many previous Climate Change dispatch articles (see here, here, here, here,  here, and the  Plate Climatology Theory).

Research by the British Antarctic Survey in 2008 greatly clarified the extent and geological setting of the Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region (see here). Utilizing new deep ice-penetrating radar readings researchers were able to clearly image a laterally extensive and very thick volcanic ash/debris flow layer.

This layer was found to be positioned/suspended within 4,000 feet of glacial ice that overlies the Hudson Mountains Region. The layer extends outward covering an area of 14,260 square miles which is roughly equivalent to the size of New Hampshire. Emplacement of the ash occurred 2,000 years ago by reactivation and massive eruptions emanating from Hudson Mountain volcanoes. The presence of this huge volcanic ash layer emphases the awesome power stored within the Hudson Mountain Volcanic Region.

The modern-day heat flow status of the Hudson Mountain Volcanic Region is quite interesting. Two of its sub-glacial volcanoes recently erupted, one in 1974 and the other in 1985 (see here). The eruptions were moderate and did not melt all the overlying glacial ice. However, the eruptions did provide strong proof that this region is still very active and fully capable of bottom melting, fracturing, and then calving the Pine Island Glacier.

Lastly, scientists who have reviewed the British Antarctic Surveys research believe that the Hudson Mountain volcanoes could violently erupt at any time in the future. “In theory, if a volcano had a violent explosion 2000 years ago, it can go off again anytime, says Michael Studinger, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia.”(see here).  Such eruptions would be accompanied by enormous amounts of atmospheric polluting ash and substantial glacial ice melting.

Next let’s discuss the Mount Takahe Volcanic Region which like the Hudson Mountains Volcanic Region lies along, and owes its existence to the West Antarctic Rift / Fault System (Figure 1). Mount Takahe is the largest and most powerful volcano in this volcanic region. When viewed from space it appears as a prominent looking ice covered circular mountain (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.) Satellite image of Mount Takahe area. (photo credit NASA Earth Observatory).

This satellite image was the focus of research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They concluded that three glaciers in the Mount Takahe area were anomalously melting, supposedly in response to Climate Change. As evidence, NASA had carefully tracked glacial velocity in the Mount Takahe area. The results of this tracking are shown above in Figure 2.

The red shading represents anomalously high glacial velocity, an excellent proxy for increased glacial melting. It here contended that NASA got it all wrong. This increased melting is the result of high geologically induced bedrock heat flow from the Mount Takahe Volcanic Region.

This contention is supported by University of Texas research which concluded that the Mount Takahe Volcanic Region, especially Mount Takahe itself, is currently flowing anomalous amounts of bedrock heat flow.

“There’s a pattern of hotspots,” Schroeder said. “One of them is next to Mount Takahe, which is a volcano that actually sticks out of the ice sheet.” (see here)

Figure 3.) University of Texas Mount Takahe Volcanic Region Heat Flow map (see here).

Still not convinced that West Antarctica is home to currently actively heat flowing sub-glacial volcanoes? Take a close look at the image below, Figure 4. This side by side comparison provides the reader with an accurately scaled representation of two West Antarctic volcanoes.

Figure 4.) Side by side comparison of Mount Takahe and Mount Erebus.

On the right is the currently erupting Mount Erebus which is located atop the southern portion of the West Antarctic Rift System. It is a massive  Stratovolcano” which scales 12,448 feet tall, 24 miles wide, and covers an area of 450 square miles. The currently bubbling hot lava pool at the crest of this huge volcano can be seen from space by NASA satellites (see here and here). On the left is Mount Takahe. It scales 11,350 feet tall, 20 miles across, and covers an area of 314 miles. Well if ever a picture told a thousand words this is it. Two monster identical looking Stratovolcanoes.

The geologically induced high heat flow and bottom glacial ice melting power of the Mount Takahe Volcano has also been detailed in a previous Climate Change dispatch article (see here). Lastly, Mount Takahe was the focus of a recent major research study by the D R Institute (see here). The study concluded that a major eruption from Mount Takahe acted to end the Southern Hemisphere’s last Ice Age, and dramatically alter the climate in this portion of Earth. Most geologists and volcanologists consider Mount Takahe to be an active or semi-active volcano.

In summary, mainstream media outlets generally do a very poor job of accurately portraying the; amazing size, extent, and heat flow status of West Antarctic ice-covered volcanoes and volcanic regions. Typically, they never even discuss these active geological features presumably hoping that the public will never know of their existence or ice melting power. These volcanos are not dead. To the contrary, they currently emit varying amounts bedrock heat flow onto the bottom of many glaciers. This results in many tangible changes to Antarctic glaciers.

It is fully appreciated that this article is well; a bit too geologically nerdy, too wordy, and lacks absolutist statements.  Mainstream media articles purposely utilize an entirely different and proven to be successful methodology, best described as a sales approach.  These types of articles reduce the evaluation of complicated climate science events to a few overly simplistic and biased explanations.

In truth, the scientific investigation process has never been clean, simple, or quick. Rather it is messy, complicated, and requires a considerable amount of time. This has never been more obvious than the investigation of the last virtually unknown continent, Antarctica. We know very little about the basic glacial ice movement, ocean warming, geological, and bedrock heat flow aspects of this continent. Utilizing a simple “sales approach” to investigating Antarctica is incorrect.

Get over it!

James Edward Kamis is a retired Geologist with 42 years of experience, a B.S. in Geology from Northern Illinois University (1973), and M.S. in geology from Idaho State University (1977) who has always been fascinated by the connection between Geology and Climate. More than 12 years of research/observation have convinced him that the Earth’s Heat Flow Engine, which drives the outer crustal plates, is an important driver of the Earth’s climate. Plate Climatology Theory ( was formally introduced on October 7, 2014, and published at the annual 2016 American Metrological Society Conference in New Orleans on January 13, 2016 (see here). James has authored more than fifty Climate Change Dispatch articles discussing the relationship between geological forces and climate.


REFERENCES Antarctic Hudson Mountains Huge Volcanic Eruption Adjacent to Pine Island Glacier Proof of Mount Takahe Geologically Induced High Heat Flow Technical Geological Article Discussing High Bedrock Heat Flow in Mount Takahe Volcanic Region  Currently Active Volcano Discovered Under West Antarctica Ice Sheet “Opinion Journalism vs. Objective News Reporting”

Active Volcano Discovered Under Ice Sheet in West Antarctica  An Active Volcano Smoldering Under 1.2 km thick West Antarctic Ice

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