Scientists have found a zombie volcano with a magma chamber beneath New Zealand that points to recent earthquakes in the area. The unusual discovery could be the beginning of a new volcano although this is not expected to happen in our lifetime.
The volcano buildup contains enough magma to fill 80,000 Olympic-size swimming pools and has squeezed up beneath the surface near a coastal town of Matata, about 200 kilometers southeast of Auckland, according to Geophysicist Ian Hamling, lead author of the study published in the online journal Science Advances.
Hamling assured that the live magma remained about 10 kilometers below the surface, so deep enough that he did not expect a volcano to develop within his lifetime. The phenomenon has two possible scenarios, a zombie volcano could develop over hundreds or thousands of years, or the magma could eventually cool and harden, he said.
The findings were qualified as a big surprise by Hamling because there have been none active zombie volcanoes near Matata for at least 400,000, the actives ones were far away in the country. The baby volcano study showed that the molten rock can accumulate underground in complex and unexpected patterns, but this does not indicate that an eruption is imminent, as reported by Nature.
GPS data and satellites images were used by the researchers to study ground motions in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The region, which goes down the center of New Zealand’s North Island, has seen 25 enormous eruptions over the past 1.6 million years.
Also, the collected data also showed an area of land about 400 square kilometers that have risen by 40 centimeters since 1950. This is also an unexpected finding that the researchers encountered when they were just looking for some information about the volcanic activity.
Matthew Pritchard, a geophysicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, assured that the study is not the first one to suggest that magma is pushing into Earth’s crust somewhere other than under an active volcano.
Examples have been found in the central Andes, Pritchard said. He addressed the phenomenon as “zombies volcanoes,” due to they showed signs of life when they supposed to be dead.
“Not to be too glib, but we are not undergoing a zombie-volcano invasion,” he added.
The magma chambers could also be found now because the technology has improved satellites’ vision and researchers have a better view of ground movements currently.
Hamling and his team want to continue studying the Bay of Plenty area in detail by using a range of techniques to probe exactly the size and shape of the magma chamber. Half of the surveyed area is offshore, and researchers need to rely on inferences from what happened on the land to gauge the changes underwater, he said.