Is California’s Super Volcano About to Erupt? New Study Reveals the Probability.

California’s Long Valley Caldera, one of the state’s most monitored volcanoes, has been the subject of continuous study due to its significant geological changes and seismic activities.

Located near Mammoth Lakes in Mono County, the Long Valley Caldera was formed about 760,000 years ago by a massive eruption that expelled 140 cubic miles of magma. This historic event left a lasting imprint on the area, with the caldera now under close scrutiny by geologists and seismologists.

According to a recent study published in Science Advances, although there have been increases in earthquakes and ground deformation over the past four decades, these signs do not necessarily indicate an approaching eruption.

Significant seismic activity was noted in May 1980 when four magnitude 6 earthquakes occurred in the area, drawing attention to the caldera’s potential threat. Despite this, the research team, led by Zhongwen Zhan, a professor of geophysics at Caltech, has utilized high-resolution underground imaging and advanced algorithms to analyze the situation.

Their findings indicate that the increased seismic activity is likely caused by non-magma fluids moving to the surface as the underground magma continues to cool and crystallize.

“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,” Zhongwen Zhan, a Caltech professor of geophysics and a study co-author, said in a statement.

This ongoing geological process can still produce minor eruptions and earthquakes, but the likelihood of a supervolcanic event remains extremely low. The area’s last notable seismic increase began in 2011, characterized by rising ground levels, but has since quieted down after 2020.

While the primary magma chamber of the Long Valley Caldera might be settling, the region is still geologically active with the potential for smaller scale volcanic activities, especially along the nearby Mono-Inyo Craters chain. This shows the importance of continued monitoring and preparedness, given the potential impacts on California’s infrastructure, including water supplies, electricity, and major transportation routes like Interstate 5, which could be affected by volcanic ash in the event of an eruption.

The Long Valley Caldera remains a fascinating but complex feature of California’s volcanic landscape, posing challenges and offering significant insights into volcanic and seismic processes.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

21 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button