Many weird phenomena are currently taking place in Antarctica.

While enigmatic deep space signals are hitting the surface of the continent, more than 50,000 tremors have rocked Antarctica since the end of August. Such an impressive spike in seismic activity has never been witnessed by scientists.

A major M6.0 as well as thousands of other small quakes were all detected in the Bransfield Strait, a 60-mile wide (96-km) ocean channel between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Although several tectonic plates and microplates meet near the strait (and thus frequent rumbling), the past three months have been unusual, according to the University of Chile.

Most of the seismicity was concentrated at the beginning of the sequence, mainly during the month of September, with more than a thousand earthquakes a day,” the center said.

The shakes have become so frequent that the strait itself, once increasing in width at a rate of about 7 or 8 mm (0.30 inch) a year is now expanding 15 cm (6 inches) a year.

It’s a 20-fold increase … which suggests that right this minute … the Shetland Islands are separating more quickly from the Antarctic peninsula,” said Sergio Barrientos, the center’s director.

volcanism in the Bransfield Strait Antarctica
volcanism in the Bransfield Strait Antarctica

So what’s behind this earthquake uptick in Antarctica?

There is no clear answer to that geological phenomenon yet. But here some suggestions based on previous similar events.

Could it be linked to a volcano forming underwater? As seen in the second map, the Bransfield Strait contains volcanoes and volcanic areas. Just remember that the formation of a new volcano near Mayotte was responsible for a strong earthquake swarm.

 

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