Project Information
Investigating Early Miocene Sub-ice Volcanoes in Antarctica for Improved Modeling and understanding of a Large Magmatic Province
Short Title:
Early Miocene volcanoes
Start Date:
End Date:
Predictions of future sea level rise require better understanding of the changing dynamics of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. One way to better understand the past history of the ice sheets is to obtain records from inland ice for past geological periods, particularly in Antarctica, the world's largest remaining ice sheet. Such records are exceedingly rare, and can be acquired at volcanic outcrops in the La Gorce Mountains of the central Transantarctic Mountains. Volcanoes now exposed within the La Gorce Mountains erupted beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet and the data collected will record how thick the ice sheet was in the past. In addition, information will be used to determine the thermal conditions at the base of the ice sheet, which impacts ice sheet stability. The project will also investigate the origin of volcanic activity in Antarctica and links to the West Antarctic Rift System (WARS). The WARS is a broad area of extended (i.e. stretched) continental crust, similar to that found in East Africa, and volcanism is wide spread and long-lived (65 million years to currently active) and despite more than 50 years of research, the fundamental cause of volcanism and rifting in Antarctica is still vigorously debated. The results of this award therefore also potentially impact the study of oceanic volcanism in the entire southwestern Pacific region (e.g., New Zealand and Australia), where volcanic fields of similar composition and age have been linked by common magma sources and processes. The field program includes a graduate student who will work on the collection, analysis, and interpretation of petrological data as part of his/her Masters project. The experience and specialized analytical training being offered will improve the quality of the student's research and optimize their opportunities for their future. The proposed work fosters faculty and student national and international collaboration, including working with multi-user facilities that provide advanced technological mentoring of science students. Results will be broadly disseminated in peer-reviewed journals, public presentations at science meetings, and in outreach activities. Petrologic and geochemical data will be disseminated to be the community through the Polar Rock Repository. The study of subglacially erupted volcanic rocks has been developed to the extent that it is now the most powerful proxy methodology for establishing precise 'snapshots' of ice sheets, including multiple critical ice parameters. Such data should include measurements of ice thickness, surface elevation and stability, which will be used to verify, or reject, published semi-empirical models relating ice dynamics to sea level changes. In addition to establishing whether East Antarctic ice was present during the formation of the volcanoes, data will be used to derive the coeval ice thicknesses, surface elevations and basal thermal regime(s) in concert with a precise new geochronology using the 40Ar/39Ar dating method. Inferences from measurement of standard geochemical characteristics (major, trace elements and Sr, Nd, Pb, O isotopes) will be used to investigate a possible relationship between the volcanoes and the recently discovered subglacial ridge under the East Antarctic ice, which may be a rift flank uplift. The ridge has never been sampled, is undated and its significance is uncertain. The data will provide important new information about the deep Earth and geodynamic processes beneath this mostly ice covered and poorly understood sector of the Antarctic continent.
Person Role
Panter, Kurt Investigator and contact
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 1443576
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Deployment Type
Kurt S Panter field camp
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
  1. Panter, K.S., Reindel, J., Smellie, J.L. (in press), Chapter 5.3b Mt. Early & Sheridan Bluff II. Petrology. In: J.L. Smellie, K.S. Panter, A. Geyer (Eds.), Volcanism in Antarctica: 200 Million Years of Subduction, Rifting and Continental Break-Up Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 53 (doi:10.1144/M53-xxxx-xx)
  2. Smellie, J.L., Panter, K.S., Reindel, J. (in press), Chapter 5.3a Mt. Early & Sheridan Bluff I. Volcanology. In: J.L. Smellie, K.S. Panter, A. Geyer (Eds.), Volcanism in Antarctica: 200 Million Years of Subduction, Rifting and Continental Break-Up Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 53 (doi:10.1144/M53-xxxx-yy)
  3. Panter, K. S., Reindel, J., & Smellie, J. L. (2021). Chapter 5.3b Mount Early and Sheridan Bluff: petrology. Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 55(1), 499–514. (doi:10.1144/m55-2019-2)