Since the 1980s, researchers have observed significant periods of unrest in a region of California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains characterized by swarms of earthquakes as well as the ground inflating and rising by almost half an inch per year during these periods. The activity is concerning because the area, called the Long Valley Caldera, sits atop a massive dormant supervolcano… What is behind the increased activity in the last few decades? Could it be that the area is preparing to erupt again? Or could the uptick in activity actually be a sign that the risk of a massive eruption is decreasing?
To answer these questions, Caltech researchers have created the most detailed underground images to date of the Long Valley Caldera, reaching depths up to 10 kilometers within the Earth’s crust. These high-resolution images reveal the structure of the earth beneath the caldera and show that the recent seismic activity is a result of fluids and gases being released as the area cools off and settles down.
The work was conducted in the laboratory of Zhongwen Zhan (PhD ’14), professor of geophysics. A paper describing the research was published on October 18 in the journal Science Advances. “We don’t think the region is gearing up for another supervolcanic eruption, but the cooling process may release enough gas and liquid to cause earthquakes and small eruptions,” says Zhan. “For example, in May 1980, there were four magnitude 6 earthquakes in the region alone.”
Originally Posted at https://slashdot.org/