Scientists have detected an enormous mass of warm rock rising up beneath part of New England that could one day spark a volcanic eruption, according to a new study.
But don't worry too much: We are millions of years away from such an event, said Vadim Levin, the study’s lead author and a geophysicist and professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University.
Scientists from Yale and Rutgers University looked at data from the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope program, which has placed thousands of seismic measurement devices across North America. They hoped to learn more about the continent’s structure and evolution, as well as the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The Atlantic margin of the North American continent, which covers the entire eastern seaboard, has always been considered a so-called passive margin, meaning no major geologic activity is thought to happen there. But after looking at the EarthScope data, Levin and his team found a surprise.
"We found that this warm thing was moving up," he said.
Fortunately, there is no immediate danger associated with this upswelling of rock beneath parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, according to Erik Klemetti, associate professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences at Denison University in Ohio.
“It would take a very long time before anything that’s happening with this swelling would generate enough melting to produce volcanoes,” he said. And by a very long time, he means millions of years.
Levin said his team’s discovery shows there is a lot scientists still don’t know about the structure of the earth. “There is so much more to learn about the planet we live on,” he said.
The study was published last week in the journal Geology.