A patch of Antarctica is warmer than it should be. For a long time, it was suspected that a magma plume was responsible. In 2017, it was confirmed. After studying the abnormal heat readings and physical changes in the land, scientists realized that the plume was gigantic and strained against a thin crust.
Located at West Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land, the fiery column is nowhere near the border of a tectonic plate, which is normally where magma gathers. The plume sits below 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) of ice and is not a recent formation.
Remarkably, it began 50–110 million years ago. This makes it older than the human race and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. As such, it has always been a part of the region’s geology and cannot be blamed for the recent melting experienced by the sheet.
From storybook snowcapped mountains to the poles, Earth’s cold spots make for an interesting experience. Ski antics and monster sightings aside, ice fields can produce things that scientists have never seen before, clues about history, and even far-reaching disasters that are born in the Arctic.
Tourists travel to remote places to witness fantastic events, while icebergs and shelves behave in ways that scientists cannot explain. But the frozen depths can also hold some of the most terrifying discoveries and disappearances in the natural world.