• Researchers discovered that New Zealand is sitting on top of a massive lava bubble
  • Underwater volcanic eruptions 120 million years ago led to the formation of a massive plateau
  • Powerful forces beneath the surface melted the mantle rocks and created volcanic plumes

A team of researchers has discovered that New Zealand is sitting on top of a massive bubble of lava. According to their study, the lava bubble was formed by an ancient volcanic superplume that is known to trigger massive eruptions.

The new study was led by researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. It was published in the journal Science Advances.

As explained by the researchers, volcanic eruptions underneath the ocean created a massive underwater plateau during the Cretaceous period, which was about 120 million years ago.

Eventually, this plateau, which was about as big as India, broke apart due to the movements of tectonic plates. One of its fragments, known as the Hikurangi Plateau, lies beneath New Zealand.

Through previous and current data, the researchers learned that seismic pressure waves, also known as P-waves, travel through the mantle rocks under the Hikurangi Plateau. According to the researchers, these P-waves were caused by either underground earthquakes of explosions.

Although most of the P-waves were traveling in a horizontal direction, researchers detected vibrations traveling vertically. For the researchers, this indicates the upward movement of lava or molten rock within the plateau.

The researchers explained that due to the powerful forces beneath the surface of Earth, mantle rocks could be heated up to the point that they start to move like liquid. This natural process triggers the formation of massive lava bubbles or plumes beneath the surface.

“This reveals crucial information about how the mantle rocks have been stretched or squeezed by the huge forces inside the Earth, and this turns out to confirm the existence of the elusive plumes,” they explained in an article published on The Conversation.

According to the researchers, their readings regarding the P-waves indicates the existence of a massive lava plume beneath New Zealand. As noted by the researchers, the enormous lava plume could be responsible for the country’s volcanic and seismic activities.

“Our results show that New Zealand sits atop the remains of such an ancient giant volcanic plume,” the researchers stated. “We show how this process causes volcanic activity and plays a key role in the workings of the planet.”

A close-up of the lava lake inside the Marum crater, an active volcano on Ambrym island, Vanuatu. Google