An Extremely Uncommon Sort of Lava Lake Was Simply Discovered Hidden in Sub-Antarctica

Once we take into consideration volcanoes, we are likely to conjure visions of effervescent swimming pools of molten lava able to eat something that ventures too shut.

The fact is a bit totally different. Such terrifying lava lakes do exist, however they’re loads rarer than you may think. Solely a handful of persistent lava lakes exist among the many estimated 1,500 doubtlessly lively volcanoes all over the world – and this fiery cohort simply welcomed a brand new member to their ranks.


Scientists from the UK have recognized what is simply the eighth identified persistent lava lake on the planet, seething contained in the lively volcano Mount Michael sitting atop the distant Saunders Island within the sub-Antarctic South Sandwich Islands, buried on the southernmost fringes of the South Atlantic.

Volcanic exercise at Mount Michael has been documented for nearly 200 years, however the excessive remoteness of the island – and its difficult bodily setting – make area investigations up shut a troublesome (if not unimaginable) activity.

015 lava lake mount michael 1 False color satellite tv for pc picture of Saunders Island and the lava lake throughout the crater of Mount Michael. (BAS)

“The island has been visited on quite a few events, however no-one has ever climbed the mountain,” geospatial analyst Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) informed the BBC.

“In case you have a look at the imagery you’ll be able to see why: the height is surrounded by an enormous snow-mushroom, extraordinarily smooth snow with an icing-sugar-like consistency, in all probability brought on by the continuous venting of steam by the volcano.”

In line with Fretwell, this smooth, treacherous terrain would make expeditions in individual to evaluate the volcano impractical, to not point out unadvisable.


“You can’t stroll over this,” he mentioned. “You would need to dig by means of it, however taking the time to do that on such an lively volcano could be harmful.”

Regardless of the hurdles, there’s lengthy been an impetus to know extra about what’s been happening below Mount Michael’s steaming hood.

Thermal anomalies on the volcano had been detected by satellite tv for pc within the 1990s, however the readings weren’t indicative of magma overflow spilling out from the crater, doubtlessly suggesting the existence of a lava lake.

In distinction with non permanent ‘lava swimming pools’ (which solely swell up during times of eruption), lava lakes are a permanent function that may final past a single eruptive episode, in some circumstances for as much as 100 years.

In a brand new examine, Fretwell and fellow researchers examined newer, higher-resolution satellite tv for pc imagery recorded in Landsat, Sentinel–2 and ASTER information between 2003 and 2018.

A thermal evaluation of the shortwave infrared (SWIR) information recognized a lava lake beneath Mount Michael with an estimated width of 110 metres, and molten lava temperatures reaching as excessive as 1,279 °C (2,334 °F), though the common warmth of the general quantity is cooler because of warmth dissipation on the crust.


It is a exceptional discover, however the larger long-term affect could be the brand new analytical strategies developed to find this “extraordinarily uncommon” formation.

“Figuring out the lava lake has improved our understanding of the volcanic exercise and hazard on this distant island, and tells us extra about these uncommon options,” BAS geologist Alex Burton-Johnson explains in a press launch.

“And eventually, it has helped us develop strategies to watch volcanoes from area.”

The findings are reported in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Analysis.


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