Magma Sits Near Earth's Surface For Several Thousand Years Before Exploding, New Study Says

 @TreyeGreen t.green@ibtimes.com
on August 21 2013 10:01 PM
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Researchers now believe that magma near the Earth's surface has the ability to remain liquid as long as fresh magma from deep in the Earth continues to feed it. Reuters

The presence of molten magma doesn't necessary equate to an impending volcanic eruption, according to new research. 

It was once believed that eruptions only occurred when magma rushed to the surface, erupting before it had ample time to cool down, reports Discovery News. But new research published in the journal Geology suggests that magma can sit near the Earth's surface for hundreds of thousands of years before an eruption occurs. 

But due to recent observations of the chemical makeup of some magma as well as its ability to move within the molten rock, it is now thought that magma near the Earth's surface has the ability to remain liquid as long as fresh magma from deep in the Earth continues to sustain it.

The study -- completed by University of Washington researchers --  also suggested that the magma itself must be injected into the crust of the Earth at an extremely high rate in order to reach enough volume and pressure to result in an eruption, Business Standard reports. 

“These time scales are in the hundreds of thousands, even up to a million, years and these chambers can sit there for that long,” said the lead the author of the study,  University of Washington doctoral student Sarah Gelman.

Gelman adds that being able to better understand the length of time magma can remain in a liquid can help scientists better determine the risks associated with specific magma reservoirs. 

“If you see melt in an area, it’s important to know how long that melt has been around to determine whether there is eruptive potential or not,” Gelman said. “If you image it today, does that mean it could not have been there 300,000 years ago? Previous models have said it couldn’t have been. Our model says it could. That doesn’t mean it was there, but it could have been there.”

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