Many weird phenomena are currently taking place in Antarctica.
While enigmatic deep space signals are hitting the surface of the continent, more than 50,000 tremors have rocked Antarctica since the end of August. Such an impressive spike in seismic activity has never been witnessed by scientists.
A major M6.0 as well as thousands of other small quakes were all detected in the Bransfield Strait, a 60-mile wide (96-km) ocean channel between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Although several tectonic plates and microplates meet near the strait (and thus frequent rumbling), the past three months have been unusual, according to the University of Chile.
“Most of the seismicity was concentrated at the beginning of the sequence, mainly during the month of September, with more than a thousand earthquakes a day,” the center said.
The shakes have become so frequent that the strait itself, once increasing in width at a rate of about 7 or 8 mm (0.30 inch) a year is now expanding 15 cm (6 inches) a year.
“It’s a 20-fold increase … which suggests that right this minute … the Shetland Islands are separating more quickly from the Antarctic peninsula,” said Sergio Barrientos, the center’s director.
So what’s behind this earthquake uptick in Antarctica?
There is no clear answer to that geological phenomenon yet. But here some suggestions based on previous similar events.
Could it be linked to a volcano forming underwater? As seen in the second map, the Bransfield Strait contains volcanoes and volcanic areas. Just remember that the formation of a new volcano near Mayotte was responsible for a strong earthquake swarm.
Moreover, it is known that many volcanoes are buried under thousand meters of ice in Antarctica and may be one of the reason responsible for the dramatic ice melting on the white continent.
Could it be linked to iceberg calving? When large icebergs break off, they sometimes trigger small to powerful shake that can be recorded on seismometers around the world. Knowing that a giant iceberg is currently drifting in the region, it may be something to consider.
Are new methane vents opening up in Antarctica? It could be! The first active leak of sea-bed methane discovered at McMurdo Sound situated in the Ross Sea, Antarctica just 6 months ago.
Are they drilling for oil and gas in Antarctica? There is currently no clues about drilling efforst, but it seems that all G20 countries want a piece of 513 billion barrels of oil in Antarctica.
Antarctica is melting from below due to geothermal heat. It would also be useful to know if this kind of increased seismicity has significant effects on the stability of polar ice caps. More geology news on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle.
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