Researchers have discovered an “enormous mass of warm rock” rising underneath part of New England.
But, a major volcanic eruption in the area isn’t likely for millions of years, according to researchers at Rutgers University, noting that the research is “groundbreaking” in its scope and “challenges textbook concepts of geology.” Some reports have described it as a “supervolcano,” but unlike the one sitting underneath Yellowstone Park.
“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 under New England,” stated lead author Vadim Levin, a geophysicist and professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
He said, “It is not Yellowstone (National Park)-like, but it’s a distant relative in the sense that something relatively small–no more than a couple hundred miles across–is happening.”
“Our study challenges the established notion of how the continents on which we live behave,” Levin added. “It challenges the textbook concepts taught in introductory geology classes.”
The study evaluated seismic data from the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope program.
They found a mass of molten rock sitting underneath Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
“The Atlantic margin of North America did not experience intense geologic activity for nearly 200 million years,” Levin said in the news release. “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.”
“It will likely take millions of years for the upwelling to get where it’s going,” he added. “The next step is to try to understand how exactly it’s happening.”
They said that residents in New England shouldn’t panic because the upwelling of magma is likely tens of millions of years old. It hasn’t gotten close enough to the surface to alter the geography of New England or spawn a volcano.
Meghan S. Miller, a structural seismologist and associate professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences who helped with the study, explained to National Geographic that the Earth’s structure is more intricate and complex than anyone realized.
“I think that kind of sounds simple and obvious in retrospect, but the Transportable Array data has allowed us to visualize how complex Earth’s structure really is,” she said.
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