The desolate icy wastes of Antarctica may harbour a dormant threat which, if awakened, could potentially render our planet uninhabitable, the Daily Express warns.
According to the newspaper, the people behind the documentary web series "What If", which is available on YouTube, explored this matter in an episode dedicated to the region in question.
"Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth and it’s quite mysterious; we didn’t know it had active volcanoes buried underneath it until 2013, when scientists accidentally detected two clusters of small earthquakes," the series' narrator explained. "Now we have scanned Antarctica with ice-penetrating radar, we know there are many volcanoes hiding below the ice – 138 to be precise. That’s only the ones we know of. How much trouble would we be in if all those volcanoes suddenly erupted?"
The documentary notes that an eruption of a volcano in Antarctica may be a "different story" when compared to volcanic eruptions in other parts of the globe, since the former are "buried under layers of ice more than four kilometres thick", meaning that "we wouldn’t be dealing with volcanic gases making their way to the surface, at least as far as the first eruption."
"The heat would melt caverns in the ice, creating substantial amounts of meltwater and that’s when things get ugly. That meltwater would cause the ice above it to move more rapidly, and begin heading into the ocean", the narrator stated. "From there, the domino effect would kick in, and magma finds a way out through an eruption. In Antarctica, multiple volcanic eruptions could wake up over 100 other volcanoes, and destabilise the entire region. As they go off, more meltwater would be created, causing more of the Antarctic ice to slide into the ocean."
And the ensuing melting of the Antarctic ice would allegedly result in catastrophic consequences for our planet in general.
"If the ice melts, it would raise the global sea level by about 60 metres, contributing to major storms moving slowly and dropping more rain. Hurricanes and typhoons would wreak havoc on the Earth’s surface", the series claimed. "Wildlife would lose their habitats and agricultural sill would become contaminated. Extensive flooding would push millions of people from the coastline – we could be looking at thousands of deaths and storms wiping out cities and floating oceans inland."
The newspaper points out, however, that there are currently only two active volcanoes in Antarctica - Mount Erebus and Deception Island – with the rest remaining dormant for thousands of years, though they apparently could, in theory, erupt in the future.