Geothermal Heat Bottom-Melting Antarctica’s Thwaites And Pine Island Glaciers

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Thwaites GlacierFor many years, especially during the last several months, numerous research studies and media articles have stated with 100% certainty that Antarctica’s two rapidly fracturing, quickly retreating, and fastest melting glaciers are the result of anthropogenic forces. Not true.

Inclusion and then analysis of all relevant information, especially geological in nature, demonstrates that anthropogenic forces have nothing to do with the melting of these two glaciers.

It may come as a surprise that Antarctica’s Pine Island and Thwaites (pictured) glaciers sit atop 41 active volcanoes, two erupting volcanoes, and the 250,000-square-mile Marie Byrd “Hotspot” (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. Marie Byrd Mantle “Hotspot” and associated Thwaites and Pine Island glacial melting which is differential to all of West Antarctica glaciers (map credit NASA 2016, labels J. Kamis).

These geological features are emitting enormous amounts of ice melting bedrock heat onto the bottom of the glaciers. This natural heat flow is the root cause of the glacial ice melting, not climate change.

Thwaites Glacier

In the Thwaites Glacier area, researchers have identified significant amounts of data and information that is here interpreted to show that geological forces are the root cause of changes in this glacier as follows.

  • Presence 31 here contended to be active subglacial volcanoes (De Vries 2017).
  • Three times normal bedrock heat flow (Schroeder 2014).“According to his findings, the minimum average geothermal heat flow beneath Thwaites Glacier is about 100 milliwatts per square meter, with hotspots over 200 milliwatts per square meter. For comparison, the average heat flow of the Earth’s continents is less than 65 milliwatts per square meter.” (see here)
  • Abnormally high bedrock heat flow in a large area that encompasses the Thwaites Glacial Basin (Schroeder 2015).
  • Evidence directly linking Thwaites Glacier melting to high geothermal heat flow (DeSanto 2019).
  • It is believed that the discovery of laterally extensive open caves beneath the Thwaites glacier is related to high bedrock heat flow as exemplified by the proven generation of open ice caves in glacial ice surrounding the high heat flow Mount Erebus Volcanic Complex.
  • Research by Nevada’s DR Institute showed that 17,700 years ago Mount Takahe erupted on multiple occasions during a 192-year span (McConnell 2017). This world-class eruptive phase acted to alter ocean currents, ice extent, and climate of the entire southern hemisphere in an area extending from the South Pole to the sub-tropics.  The Thwaites Glacier is adjacent to this volcano. 
  • Presence of one currently erupting subglacial volcano beneath the Pine Island Glacier (Loose 2018).

Figure 2. Approximately forty active and two erupting volcanos and the High Heat Flux area beneath the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers.

Pine Island Glacier

Here, interpreted evidence supporting the hypothesis that underlying geologically induced heat flow is melting, fracturing, and forcing the retreat of the Pine Island Glacier is as follows.

  • Presence of one currently erupting subglacial volcano beneath the Pine Island Glacier (Loose 2018).
  • One recently erupted subglacial volcano (1985) and another subglacial volcano emitting significant amounts of steam through the glacial ice in the Pine Island Glacier area (1974). Both increases in bedrock geological heat flow occurred in the Hudson Mountain Volcanic Complex adjacent to Pine Island Glacial area (Global Volcanism Program).
  • The Discovery of six here interpreted active subglacial volcanos located in the Hudson Mountain Volcanic Complex(De Vries 2017).
  • Discovery of a laterally extensive, 2,000-year-old and very thick layer of volcanic ash suspended within the areas 4,000 feet of glacial ice in the Hudson Mountain Volcanic Complex. “The discovery of a ‘subglacial’ volcanic eruption from beneath the Antarctic ice sheet is unique in itself. But our techniques also allow us to put a date on the eruption, determine how powerful it was, and map out the area where ash fell. We believe this was the biggest eruption in Antarctica during the last 10,000 years. It blew a substantial hole in the ice sheet, and generated a plume of ash and gas that rose around 12 km into the air.” (Corr 2008).
  • Three times normal regional bedrock heat flow in the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier area (Schroeder 2014, Steig 2009).
  • Presence of the 620,000-square-mile Marie Byrd Mantle Plume “Hotspot” which encompasses the Pine Island area. (see here and here).
  • The long linear shape and orientation of the Pine Island Glacial Valley are here thought to be strong evidence that the valley was generated by faulting related to the world-class West Antarctic Rift. many faults from this rift are proven to be conduits for the upwelling of super-hot deep inner earth fluids.

In summary, increased and supposedly unnatural melting of the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers is the result of a geological heat flow emanating from underly geological features, not Climate Change.

It is well within the right of researchers and media reporters to express their belief that a particular theory is correct.

However, my college geological professors/mentors insisted that all geologists under their tutelage must include relevant data and information into the development of a hypothesis or theory.

Failure by most present-day scientists and media outlets to portray to the public relevant geological information or to include this information into their hypothesis and theory development is difficult to reconcile with proper scientific methodology.


James Edward Kamis is a retired professional Geologist with 42 years of experience. He has a B.S. in Geology from Northern Illinois University (1973) and an M.S. in Geology from Idaho State University (1976). He has always been fascinated by the connection between Geology and Climate. Forty-two years of collecting then integrating data, research, and his own observations have proven that geological forces significantly affect Earth’s climate and climate-related events as per his  Plate Climatology Theory.

The post Geothermal Heat Bottom-Melting Antarctica’s Thwaites And Pine Island Glaciers first appeared on Climate Change Dispatch.

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