A team of scientists unearthed a volcanic region previously hidden under ice sheets, with the geologist who led the team warning of destabilising consequences.
Edinburgh University researchers uncovered almost 100 volcanoes – with the highest almost as tall as Switzerland's 3,970-metre Eiger.
Geologists think the region, which sits two kilometres below ice in west Antarctica, will dwarf east Africa’s volcanic ridge, which is rated as the world's densest concentration of volcanoes.
The mountains, which are thought to form the planet's largest range of peaks, were discovered under Antarctic ice caps
Glacier expert Robert Bingham, who helped author the paper, warned The Guardian the range could have worrying consequences.
'If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets.
'Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.
'The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.'
Edinburgh University scientists fear their latest discoveries could have crucial consequences
The Edinburgh volcano survey, featured in the Geological Society’s special publications series, examined the underside of the ice sheet for hidden peaks of basalt rock similar to those produced by the region’s other volcanoes.
Over the past century, explorers have reported sightings of their tips, which reach above the ice.
The survey team's youngest member, Max Van Wyk de Vries, is a volcano fanatic who wouldn't stop wondering how many tips lie below the ice.
An undergraduate at the university's school of geosciences, he set up the project with Dr Bingham.
Dr Bingham says sea levels could rise further if the volcanoes that have been uncovered erupt
They used ice-penetrating radar carried by planes and land vehicles to analyse measurements made by previous surveys and survey strips of west Antarctic ice.
Dr Bingham explained the results were compared with satellite and database