According to this study, volcanoes are the mouths of an immense underground “network”, moving lava to the surface.
This weekend, the Cumbre volcano on the Canary Islands archipelago completely paralyzed the island of Palma with blocks of lava of an unprecedented height. On the other side of the globe, on the French island of Reunion, eruptions from Piton de la Fournaise are also very frequent. In front of this upsurge in terrestrial volcanic activity, scientists have long sought to understand its origin.
According to them, it would be a real network, present at the heart of our planet, which would push the hot lava from the mantle to the surface of the Earth. It would be present in the thick layers of the mantle since its birth, billions of years ago.
The coat moves a lot more than you think
According to several studies, it is responsible for the “Deccan traps” that occurred on Earth 65 million years ago. This series of lava floods had then modified the Earth’s climate in depth, thus causing the end of the dinosaurs, already very weakened by the fall of a supermassive asteroid.
Still very little known by the scientific world, this underground network has been studied very closely since 2012 by an international team of geophysicists and seismologists. In the results of this study, published recently in the journal Science, the researchers explain that this “network” is not a simple column above the Indian Ocean as they originally thought.
An underground network in the shape of a tree
It unfolds like a tree, with multiple branches, which rise from the heart of the Earth to the crust of the planet. At each end of these branches (or almost) is a volcano, active, dormant, or extinct. The presence of this magmatic tree had already been suggested for many years, but its confirmation could play an important role in our knowledge of volcanoes.
Indeed, by mapping this structure into branches with precision, and starting from the hypothesis that the latter continue to progress through the centuries, it would thus be possible to predict the position of the next volcanoes, according to the evolution of these branches that will end up piercing the earth’s crust one day.
This discovery offers in passing a new theory concerning the birth of volcanoes. If the movements of tectonic plates form most of them, certain volcanoes called “hot spots” were born in the heart of a plate without scientists really understanding why. This is for example the case of Etna in Italy or Piton de la Fournaise in Reunion.