Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Research has uncovered an enormous mass of molten rock rising beneath vast swathes of northeast America

Molten lava sprays from a volcanic eruption - which scientists say could one day occur in a region of the US so far devoid of any volcanoes.
Scientists believe a region completely devoid of volcanoes could one day be faced with a major eruption.

Scientists have been monitoring seismic activity in the New England region for the past two years, with the swelling of magma mostly detected underneath central Vermont, western Massachusetts and western New Hampshire.

How do volcanoes work?

Although a major eruption is thought to be millions of years away, the findings suggest a monumental shift in the landscape of an area completely devoid of volcanoes. The US has 169 active volcanoes, with many located in Alaska and Hawaii.

Lead author of the study Vadim Levin - a geophysicist and professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey - said that the results of the research "challenge the textbook concepts" of geology.

"Our study challenges the established notion of how the continents on which we live behave," he added.

"The Atlantic margin of North America did not experience intense geologic activity for nearly 200 million years. It is now a so-called 'passive margin' - a region where slow loss of heat within the Earth and erosion by wind and water on the surface are the primary change agents.

"So we did not expect to find abrupt changes in physical properties beneath this region, and the likely explanation points to a much more dynamic regime underneath this old, geologically quiet area."

Mr Levin said the geological changes being exhibited were somewhat similar to the activity seen beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which is home to a cauldron-like, 40-mile-wide depression in the ground known as a caldera.

Scientists have labelled it a supervolcano because of its destructive potential.

"The upwelling we detected is like a hot air balloon, and we infer that something is rising up through the deeper part of our planet," Mr Levin explained.

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