An enormous mass of warm rock is welling up under parts of New England. Using a network of seismic measurement devices, researchers discovered the enormous blob rising under Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts and possibly other regions.
Like A Hot Air Balloon
Because New England does not have any known active volcano, researchers think that the huge build up is a geologically recent phenomenon. Nonetheless, it may have slowly albeit steadily been growing over the past tens of millions of years.
Geophysicist Vadim Levin from Rutgers University-New Brunswick likened the upwelling they detected to a hot air balloon.
"Highly localized variation in the strength of seismic anisotropy in a region of strongly elevated asthenospheric temperature suggests the presence of a narrow thermal upwelling in the upper mantle beneath New England," Levin and colleagues wrote in their study published in the journal Geology.
Will There Be An Eruption?
The process appears to be similar to the phenomenon seen under the Yellowstone National Park, where magma is continually pushed from the mantle through the crust and periodically into the surface in powerful eruptions.
It is not certain if the pool of magma will erupt with the magnitude of the Yellowstone supervolcano. The researchers nonetheless said that however enormous the blob is, it is no giant when compared with other volcanic masses that churn under the continental United States.
"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," Levin said.
Is There A Supervolcano Forming Under New England?
Several things could happen over the next millions of years. The upwelling of the magma may die off, increase in speed, or even increase in size. For now, however, it has not yet gotten close enough to the surface to alter New England's geography or create a volcano, much less a supervolcano.
Supervolcanoes produce the largest and most powerful eruptions. The sheer amount of expelled magma is enough to radically alter a landscape and leave lasting impact on global climate.
Many potentially dangerous volcanoes may still remain undiscovered. Just last year, researchers reported the discovery of an invisible network of nearly 100 unknown volcanoes hidden beneath the Antarctic ice. It remains unclear if these volcanoes are active.
The discovery of the volcanoes is important because if one of these erupts, it may further destabilize Antarctica's ice sheet, which is already affected by global warming.