30,000 tremors in three months in Antarctica, say Chilean scientists

SANTIAGO: More than 30,000 tremors have rocked Antarctica since late August, according to the University of Chile, a surge in seismic activity that has fascinated researchers studying the remote, snow-covered continent.

Scientists at the university’s National Seismological Center said the small quakes – including a stronger magnitude 6 shake – were detected in Bransfield Strait, a 60-mile-wide ocean channel between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Multiple tectonic plates and microplates meet near the strait, causing frequent rumble. However, the past three months have been unusual, according to the center.

“Most of the seismicity is concentrated at the beginning of the sequence, mostly in September, with more than a thousand earthquakes a day,” the center said.

The tremors have become so common that the strait itself, which once grew in width at a rate of about 7 or 8 mm (0.30 inches) per year, is now expanding at 15 cm (6 inches) per year, so that Center.

“It’s a 20-fold increase … which suggests the Shetland Islands are separating from the Antarctic Peninsula faster this minute,” said Sergio Barrientos, the center’s director.

The peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on earth, and scientists are closely monitoring the effects of the changing climate on icebergs and glaciers.

However, climatologist Raul Cordero of the University of Santiago said it was not yet clear how the tremors could affect the region’s ice.

“There’s no evidence that this type of seismic activity … has any significant impact on the stability of the polar ice caps,” Cordero told Reuters.

This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the heading was changed.

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