Based on its astonishing inflation rate, scientists have determined that the pocket of magma beneath Bolivia’s Uturuncu volcano is growing by about 27 cubic feet (1 cubic meter) per second.
“That’s about 10 times faster than the standard rate of magma chamber growth you see for large volcanic systems,” said Jonathan Perkins, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who presented work on the mountain at this year’s Geological Society of America meeting in Minneapolis.
“It’s one of the fastest uplifting volcanic areas on Earth,” says Oregon State University professor Shan de Silva, a volcanologist on the research team.
“It’s not a volcano that we think is going to erupt at any moment,” says de Silva, “but it certainly is interesting, because the area was thought to be essentially dead.” [See images of the inflating volcano here.]
Uturuncu, the highest peak in SW Bolivia, is surrounded by one of the most dense concentrations of supervolcanoes on the planet, all of which fell silent some 1 million years ago. [Related: The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History]
Though Uturuncu itself is in the same class as Mount St. Helens in Washington state, its aggressive rise could possibly indicate that a new supervolcano is on the way.
Or not. The scientists just simply do not have enough information as of now.
De Silva said it appears that local volcanoes hoard magma for about 300,000 years before they blow — and Uturuncu last erupted about 300,000 years ago.
Thanks to Robert Fleming, Len Soet, Wanda and Caroline Snyder for this link