APR 28, 2020 6:49 AM PDT

Don't wake the Andes' supervolcano

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports showcases new insight regarding the supervolcano laying under the Andes Mountains in South America. This study was conducted by researchers from Uppsala University who have been tracking the seismic activity in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia as well as the Altiplano-Puna magma body underneath the mountain range. According to their findings, the team thinks that it may be possible to predict more accurately the occurrence of the next supervolcanic eruption based on information from the Altiplano-Puna magma body. 

"Huge volcanic eruptions from so-called supervolcanoes are very unusual, but when they happen they are extremely devastating. It's incredibly important for volcanologists to clarify what keeps this sleeping giant alive and what can cause it to awaken," says Valentin Troll, Professor of Petrology at the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University.

To start looking for these answers, the researchers analyzed lavas from the magma reservoir during smaller volcanic eruptions after the last major eruption 4 million years ago. Researchers estimate that the Altiplano-Puna magma reservoir holds approximately 500,000 cubic kilometers of molten and semi-molten magma - an unbelievable amount. They wanted to use lava samples from more recent seismic events in order to evaluate the chemical composition of the magma reservoir. 

"This was a demanding task. Under these particular volcanoes in the Central Andes is the Earth's thickest crust, 70 kilometers thick, which means that the magma is given many chances to change and react with the material it comes into contact with when it forces its way up to the surface," says Frances Deegan, a researcher at Uppsala University.

Photo: Pixabay

After years of strenuous effort, the researchers gathered enough samples of lava to analyze the composition of the oxygen isotopes. This information pointed them towards how the lavas were formed and where they originated from. From their analyses, they demonstrated that the lavas came from the material that sustains the volcanoes of the Central Andes deep within the Earth. 

This investigation will inform future investigations on supervolcanoes. "Supervolcanic eruptions can cause gigantic disasters. The last one that happened on the Earth was Toba's super eruption in Indonesia 73,000 years ago and it is considered to have almost led to the extinction of mankind. Even if we can't prevent a super eruption from happening, it would be smart to use the time until the next eruption to learn as much as possible to increase the chances for our communities to survive such an event," says Valentin Troll.

Sources: Scientific Reports, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 09, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Weaker than ever before: Florida's currents and what it means for us
AUG 09, 2020
Weaker than ever before: Florida's currents and what it means for us
New research published in Nature Communications provides evidence that the currents in the Gulf Stream are slowing down. ...
AUG 11, 2020
Microbiology
A New Microbe is Discovered in an 'Unnatural' Environment
AUG 11, 2020
A New Microbe is Discovered in an 'Unnatural' Environment
While we can exert a degree of control over our surroundings, we still share the world and our bodies with microbes.
AUG 20, 2020
Health & Medicine
New Method to Detect Microplastics in Human Tissues
AUG 20, 2020
New Method to Detect Microplastics in Human Tissues
Microplastics make headlines frequently these days, and a discovery from Arizona State University (ASU) researchers is b ...
AUG 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Is a Supernova to Blame for the Devonian Extinction Event?
AUG 26, 2020
Is a Supernova to Blame for the Devonian Extinction Event?
Over the roughly 4.5 billion years of Earth's existence, there have been several periods were biodiversity has been near ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Sets New Diving Record
SEP 24, 2020
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Sets New Diving Record
Marine mammals are uniquely adapted to dive to incredible depths. New research from Duke University Marine Laboratory do ...
OCT 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Improving activated powdered carbon to prevent algal blooms in drinking water treatment
OCT 12, 2020
Improving activated powdered carbon to prevent algal blooms in drinking water treatment
In a study published in the journal Water Research, researchers from The Korea Institute of Science and Technology ...
Loading Comments...