Rare Lava Lake Was Discovered In The Sub-Antarctica​ South Sandwich Islands

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The kind of magma we imagine when we picture volcanoes, the lava boiling in puddles and endangering everything near is pretty rare, with only a few persistent lava lakes in the world. Now, scientists have discovered what is the eighth identified persistent lava lake around the world, boiling inside the active volcano Mount Michael found on top of Saunders Island in the sub-Antarctic South Sandwich Islands.

Geospatial analyst Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explained that the imagery captured of the Mount Michael shows the peak surrounded by a massive snow-mushroom, possibly a result of the continuous venting of steam by the volcano.

Thermal abnormalities at the volcano were identified by satellite in the 1990s, but the observations didn’t clearly indicate a lava overflow spilling out from the abyss, potentially pointing to the existence of a lava lake.

Rare Lava Lake Was Discovered In The Sub-Antarctica​ South Sandwich Islands

Unlike the temporary ‘lava pools,’ which only surge up during periods of eruption, lava lakes are an interminable feature that can last way more than a single eruptive event, and in some cases even up to 100 years.

In new research, Fretwell and his colleagues analyzed newer and higher-resolution satellite imagery collected in Landsat, Sentinel-2, and ASTER data between 2003 and 2018. A thermal examination of the shortwave infrared (SWIR) data detected a lava lake beneath Mount Michael with a calculated width of 110 meters. The molten lava temperatures were estimated to go up as high as 1,279°C (2,334°F)​, even though the average heat of the overall volume is cooler because of the heat dispersal at the surface.

This is an impressive discovery, but the more significant long-term effect might be the new systematic techniques created to discover this incredibly rare formation. The findings allegedly helped scientists to develop methods to monitor volcanoes from space. The discoveries were published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.


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