Mysterious volcano slowly grows beneath New Zealand

A mysterious volcano is growing under the margin of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.

Yes, a group of scientists have discovered an unexplained and massive underground magma chamber and thus a potentially new volcano in New Zealand.

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Location maps showing the North Island of New Zealand and the study area at the northern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone as well as the 2005-2009 Matata earthquake swarm. via Science

There is beneath Matata a massive magma build-up, possibly signaling the beginnings of a new volcano.

Scientists have indeed discovered evidence for a large, long-lived, off-axis magmatic intrusion located on the margin of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.

Geodetic data acquired since the 1950s show evidence for uplift outside of the region of active extension, consistent with the inflation of a magmatic body at a depth of ~9.5 km.

New measurements suggest that there was an increase in the inflation rate from 2003 to 2011, which correlates with intense earthquake activity in the region.

The results suggest that the continued growth of a large magmatic body may represent the birth of a new magma chamber on the margins of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.

But the growth mechanisms remain enigmatic.

Increased danger in the area?

People in the area are already at risk from volcanic hazards, especially ashfall from the Taupo volcanoes.

It is unclear whether the oddball magma chamber will pose an extra risk. There has been no increase in volcanic activity in the northern Taupo region. And the uplift may not necessarily be related to magma at all. Some other geologic process may be at work.

Science Magazine and Scientific American

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