Geologists in New Zealand have discovered a magma chamber being born in a surprising place — not under the country’s most active volcanoes, but off to one side.
The finding suggests that molten rock can accumulate underground in complex and unexpected patterns, but does not indicate that an eruption is imminent.
“There’s no need to panic, but chances are there are lots of bodies of magma dotted throughout the crust,” says Ian Hamling, a geophysicist at GNS Science in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. He and his colleagues describe the discovery on 3 June in Science Advances1.
The team used radar data from satellites, such as the European Space Agency’s now-defunct Envisat, to study ground motions in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. This region, which runs down the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, has seen 25 enormous eruptions in the past 1.6 million years. Today, it is home to some of the country’s most spectacular volcanic features, from the bubbling hot pots of Rotorua to frequent eruptions at Whakaari, or White Island, in the Bay of Plenty off of the North Island. The most recent eruption at Whakaari was in April.
A 2015 study2 found that much of the main Taupo Volcanic Zone was subsiding, or sinking, as is expected after magma erupts and drains from an underground chamber. But one area, to the north and west along the Bay of Plenty coast, seemed to be rising. “I just discounted it at the time, because we were so focused on looking at the…