As Erebus Lives and Breathes

The Antarctica volcano’s long-lived lava lake coughs up clues to the physiology of volcanoes

By Janet Raloff, 20:22 PM March 20, 2013

MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA — Even when the December sun beats down 24 hours a day, most of Antarctica remains cold, if not brutally frigid. With one dramatic exception. Wind-blown clouds of steam rise year-round from a lava lake atop Mount Erebus, the planet’s southernmost active volcano.

This ice-covered cone belongs to a small chain of otherwise dormant peaks that make up Ross Island. Some 1,300 summer residents at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo research station 35 kilometers awa...

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