Volcanic source discovered by scientists at a depth never explored before

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Source of lava inside of crater
A close-up of the spattering source on the floor of Pu`u `Ō `ō crater in Hawaii. (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

Volcanoes have existed on our Earth since billions of years and since our Earth was formed initially. Volcano eruption causes a huge loss of life and money. The source of the volcano was believed to be the shift in tectonic plates in the mantle of the Earth but scientists have discovered the real source of these volcanoes. Previously it was known to exist in the region between the upper and lower mantle. A new discovery had taken the source of volcanoes further deeper into the mantle. This study has been published in the Nature journal.

Volcano seamount exists in the Bermuda island and geologists have found a material here, which bubbled up from 400 to 600 km below Earth’s surface and spewed high up by volcanoes. Geologist Esteban Gazel of the Cornell University was expecting the data to show that it was a mantle plume formation which is an upward formation from the inner mantle. A transition zone deep inside the mantle was found and the Bermuda volcanoes are found to be formed from here.

Volcanoes in Hawaii originate at 200 to 400 km below the surface of the Earth but the Bermuda volcano is originating much deeper in an area which is rich in water and minerals along with molten rock. A sample drill over 700 meters deep was drilled in 1972. The layers of the crust and mantle were studied and analysed to understand the geological history and background of the geographical area. They were able to predict and reconstruct the geographical events that led to the formation of this geographical area. Researchers looked for isotopes of minerals, trace elements.

Geologist Sarah Muzza of the University of Münster said that when she studied and analysed the sample she found diverse textures and mineralogy in different lava flows. They confirmed the extreme enrichment in trace element composition as they unfolded the mysteries of the sample.

Surprisingly they found crystals of water from the subduction zones, it is the region at the boundary of tectonic plates where the edges of the plates slide over each other. It includes samples of titanium-augite, feldspar, phlogopite, spinel and large amount of crystals of water. The element that led to the identification of the source of lava core was the lead isotope which was never before being observed in lava. The isotopes were radiogenic isotopes which are not found in the upper mantle but researchers believe it has a deeper origin. The transition zone is the region which causes the material to melt and percolate upwards was determined by mathematical modelling.

Such findings help geologist understand the volcanoes that have originated from the deep ends of the Earth that shaped the Earth. We are now able to determine that the transition zone of the Earth is like a chemical reservoir and that we are able to recognise it’s importance in terms of global geodynamics.

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