May 19, 2022

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The mystery of the volcanoes in Antarctica: A group of Argentine scientists are trying to understand how they work

The mystery of the volcanoes in Antarctica: A group of Argentine scientists are trying to understand how they work

Argentine base on Deception Island, Antarctica (Photo by Lucas Guerrero)

A team of researchers from National University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA) Spent the summer at the base of Decepción, built in 1948 on an island that is actually an active volcano with numerous eruptions recorded in the past 50 years, and where they work to identify signals that allow for an understanding of its behavior.

In this way, the group reinvigorated scientific missions that had been interrupted nearly ten years ago in the place and where The average annual minimum temperature is 5.5 degrees below zero and the maximum is 1.2 degrees below zero.

Located about 1,000 km from the Fujian city of Ushuaia and about 3,100 km in a straight line from Buenos Aires, the land in question forms part of a volcanic chain rising from the Antarctic sea floor, and includes dozens of formations, three of which appeared as islands (Blush, Bridgeman, Penguin) The rest remained submerged. Next to, Decepción volcano is the only one with a historical record of eruptions.

Doctor of Geosciences, Professor at UBA and Researcher at Conicet, Mariano AugustoHe stated this in an interview with the agency blame That, “Despite the fact that the most distinguishing feature of Antarctica is the great cover of snow, ice, and fauna associated with that environment, there are also active volcanoes, and In the Argentine Antarctic strip, the Deception Island volcano recorded well-documented volcanic eruptions in 1967, 1969 and 1970″.

The expert emphasized that “between the northwest sector of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Archipelago, there is a strait known as the Fleet Sea (or Bransfield) where the volcanic chain from which Deception Island emerges develops.”

The Argentine team of scientists measures volcanic gases in Antarctica (Photo: Mariano Augusto)
The Argentine team of scientists measures volcanic gases in Antarctica (Photo: Mariano Augusto)

“This was discovered by the English and Norwegian seal whaling expeditions during the nineteenth century. He explained that the activity on the island was abandoned at the beginning of the twentieth century, due to the fall in the price of whale oil when oil replaced it with fuel.”

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In this regard, he noted that “Argentina established the Antarctic Deception base there in 1948 and that Chile and the United Kingdom also built their own facilities,” but The 1967 and 1969 explosions destroyed the facilities of the two countries that abandoned the island.”

The researcher said that “until the outbreak of 1967, Argentina’s Decepticon base was permanent”, but From these last episodes, the nation-state has used its location as a summer base dedicated to volcanology studieswhile at the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century, Spain installed a base that would do seismic monitoring, among other studies.”

“This summer, with the deployment of a team of five researchers working there, Argentina has revitalized its volcanic research in the area, after nearly ten years.”Celebrate August.

The team of researchers was composed of the same doctor of geosciences accompanying him Clara Lamberti, Pablo Forte, Lucas Guerrero and Adriana Ariza Pardo (Invited researcher from Colombia). The work was carried out in the framework of a joint project with the IAA, and with logistical support from the forces of the Joint Antarctic Command.

Argentine research on the island, although it generally covers aspects of volcanism, is focused on the geochemical study of volcanic gases, of its own fumarole emissions and thermal waters which, in addition, are a major attraction for Antarctic tourism and almost a mandatory stopover for cruise ships operating in the region,” he said.

Argentine researchers Clara Lamberti, Mariano Augusto, Pablo Forte, Adriana Ariza and Lucas Guerrero
Argentine researchers Clara Lamberti, Mariano Augusto, Pablo Forte, Adriana Ariza and Lucas Guerrero

Augustus explained it “The whole island is an active volcano, fueled by an active magma chamber that can erupt in 50 years or in a month.”so “for now, it is difficult to estimate when a lava eruption may ‘return and whether it will be more or less violent’ than its predecessors, but he stressed that what can be done in the meantime” Investigate it to determine its properties and identify the signals that allow us to understand its behavior.”

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“From the study of the rocks, and the geological record of the island, we know that some eruptions have been quieter and some are more violent and that this is related to the place on the island where they originated because when the magma comes into contact with the water the eruptions become more active. On the other hand, from the study of current signals that we are carrying out Now, like differences in the composition, flow, and temperature of volcanic gases, the goal is to establish an informative baseline that allows us to build a pattern of volcano behavior. Which is key to identifying precursor signals for future reactivation,” he noted.

The scientist confirmed that the researchers who were in Decepción this summer, as his condition was, were part of Active Volcanoes Monitoring and Study Group (Gesva), of UBA and the Conicet Institute Idean, who works every summer on this type of geological structure, usually those in the Andes, such as Copahue in Neuquén or Peteroa in Mendoza, in conjunction with other Argentine organizations such as the Argentine Volcano Observatory (Segemar). ) and CNEA.

“Those of us who work in this specialty know that it is a risky activity, but we are taking precautions. On Deception Island, we also have seismic information support from the Spanish base. (And we also expect Segemar for the next few years) to know if something out of the ordinary happens, and in the event that the data indicates an upcoming danger, we know that by issuing an alert in a day or two, we can be evacuated,” he added.

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Finally, the specialist explained that “another important aspect is that the studies that have been added to the volcanic monitoring of the Deception Island provide more information about the geothermal characteristics of the island,” which can provide more details “about the characteristics of this particular volcanic-hydrothermal system.”

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