Doomsday volcanoes on the planet are awakening in record numbers: Is a new supervolcano forming in Chile?
November 2, 2013
November 2, 2013 – GEOLOGY – One of these days, a field of volcanoes you have never heard of will wake up, and if it fulfills its geologic potential, the consequences will be heard around the world. Curiously, Laguna del Maule, situated along the spine of the Andes, doesn’t even look like a volcano. No towering peak, no plume of smoke or steam, no stench of sulfur. But 36 times in the past 20,000 years, volcanic vents surrounding the lake basin have created monster fields of lava — with huge deposits of volcanic glass, pumice and ash. Once, almost a million years ago, this volcano field had an eruption that, if repeated, could change history by affecting air travel, agriculture and climate. Tantalizing scraps of lava indicate enormous eruptions 1.5 million and 336,000 years ago. It’s a maxim of geology: What happened before can happen again. The volcanic field is 20 kilometers in diameter, and the recent surge in attention is largely due to a widespread, 1.5 meter rise since 2007. “That’s phenomenal,” says Brad Singer, a professor of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who began studying this part of the Andes 20 years ago. “There is no other volcano in the world that is going up at this rate.”