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Magma Build Up Under New Zealand Town Could Signal the Birth of New Volcano

Jun 08, 2016 07:00 AM EDT
A photo of Mount Etna Erupting. Researchers discovered a magma buildup 10 kilometers deep underneath the coastal town of Matata in New Zealand.
(Photo :

Scientists have discovered a huge magma buildup underneath a coastal town of Matata in New Zealand containing enough magma to fill 80,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, indicating possible birth of new volcano.

According to the researchers, the magma buildup could signal the birth of a new volcano. However, the chances of eruption remain very low because the magma buildup, which is about 10 kilometers deep, is still on its early stages. Volcanoes usually take hundreds or thousands of years to form.

"Our results suggest that the continued growth of a large magmatic body may represent the birth of a new magma chamber on the margins of a back-arc rift system," the researchers wrote on their paper published in the journal Science Advances.

However, researchers noted that the magma might also eventually cool and harden, preventing further development of a new volcano.

For the study, researchers analyzed a range of satellite images to observe geographic changes in the region. They also used a system called interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) with regular GPS mapping to measure the changes in the elevation in the land.

The researchers discovered about 400 square kilometers area of land has risen by 40 centimeters since 1950. They also found out that there was increase in inflation rate from 2003 to 2011, causing intense earthquake activity in the region.

According to a report from Associated Press, the researchers were surprised to discover a magma buildup below Matata because there are no active volcanoes near the town for at least 400,000 years. Matata, which is about 200 kilometers southeast of Auckland, is home to about 650 people. It is situated in the outskirts of Taupo Volcanic Zone, which is considered to be one of the active volcanic regions in the world.

Researchers are now hoping that their findings might help future studies, allowing other researchers to develop a warning system for earthquakes that were most likely to be the result of magma stressing and rock breaking in the region.

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