A huge mass of warm rocks is rising beneath portions of New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Although it does not indicate a major eruption is coming anytime soon, the findings are compelling in other ways. Lead author explains: “The upwelling we detected is like a hot air balloon, and we infer that something is rising up through the deeper part of our planet under New England. It is not Yellowstone-like, but it’s a distant relative in the sense that something relatively small – no more than a couple hundred miles across – is happening … And challenges the established notion of how the continents on which we live behave.“
The team focused their efforts in the area in New England where scientists had previously detected temperatures in the mantle that were hundreds of degrees Celcius warmer than other neighboring areas.
The researchers collected seismic data through the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope program, a network of thousands of seismic measurement devices that have been placed throughout the continental United States at intervals of 46.6 miles. The devices will remain in place for two years while the organization details the structure and evolution of the North American continent and learns more about the processes that lead to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
“We’re interested in what happens at the interface between tectonic plates – thick, solid parts that cover our planet – and material in the upper mantle beneath the plates. We want to see how North America is gliding over the deeper parts of our planet. It is a very large and relatively stable region, but we found an irregular pattern with rather abrupt changes in it.”
New England residents have little to fear from the upwelling as it will likely take millions of years for the upwelling to get where it’s going. The next step is to try to understand how exactly it’s happening.