Not by Fire but by Ice


Discover What Killed the Dinosaurs . . . and Why it Could Soon Kill Us


Massive volcanism created underwater plateau

one-third the size of the United States

Intermittent volcanism continues on
Heard and McDonald islands

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27 Jun 10 - The Kerguelen Plateau, an underwater plateau one-third the size of the United States, is the result of massive volcanic eruptions that took place about 100 million years ago. Known as a large igneous province (LIP), the Kerguelen Plateau lies in the remote southern Indian Ocean
about 3,000 km southwest of Australia. A small portion of the plateau lies above sea level, forming the Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island, and the McDonald Islands.

In early 1999, geologists with the Ocean Drilling Program studied the Kerguelen Plateau. One of the least understood features in the ocean, LIPs are areas where magma spewed from deep beneath the earth's surface and formed molten rock. LIPs may have affected Earth's past environment by altering ocean circulation, climate conditions and sea level.

Earth has experienced many such massive volcanic episodes. However, due to their depth beneath the oceans, few large igneous provinces have been properly studied, explains Bruce Malfait, ocean drilling program director at the National Science Foundation.

"Kerguelen Plateau and Broken Ridge hold the history of one of the largest and longest-lived volcanic events on Earth," says Mike Coffin of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. The Kerguelen hot spot continues to erupt today at Heard and McDonald Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Soil layers in the basalt indicate that much of the plateau was above sea level for three periods between 100 million years ago and 20 million years ago, says Wikipedia.

"The Kerguelen microcontinent may have been covered by a  dense conifer forest in the mid-Cretaceous. It finally sank 20 million years ago and is now 1–2 km (0.62–1.2 mi) below sea level. It has sedimentary rocks similar to the ones found in Australia and India, suggesting they were once connected."

      I wonder how much of the Kerguelen Plateau formed underwater.
      The magma would have poured into the oceans at up to 2,150 degrees
      hot. Can you imagine how much that would have heated the water?

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