Discovery of an Undersea Giant Amidst the serene backdrop of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, scientists speculate the presence of a mammoth supervolcano. While previous studies gave hints, a recent comprehensive analysis suggests that a massive crater formed by this supervolcano could connect at least four of the island’s volcanoes.
Piecing Together the Geological Puzzle At first sight, the evidence supporting the supervolcano’s existence appears scattered and inconclusive, shares Diana Roman, a renowned volcanologist. Notably, the Islands of the Four Mountains, a set of six volcanoes, seemed like a regular volcanic cluster. However, combining bathymetric seafloor maps from the 1950s, patterns of microearthquakes, and satellite-based gravity data, the researchers have started seeing the bigger picture: a massive caldera approximately 20 kilometers in diameter.
Traces of Massive Eruptions Deep-seated microearthquakes, especially around the prolifically active Mount Cleveland volcano, pointed towards the potential presence of a vast underground caldera. Interestingly, Mount Cleveland’s eruption pattern mirrors other volcanoes known to border colossal calderas, like Indonesia’s Rinjani. Such a caldera could leave enduring global impacts if it erupts, spewing monumental ash clouds and triggering climatic shifts.
Challenges in Unraveling the Mystery Given the Aleutian Islands’ remote location, predominantly underwater terrain, and overlying fresh volcanic deposits, the discovery journey has been intricate. While individual studies presented clues, it’s the unified, holistic approach that’s hinting at the bigger picture – a potentially dormant supervolcano waiting to be fully unveiled.
Future Exploration and Implications The research team, undeterred by the site’s limited accessibility, is eager to collect more data. Their objectives include validating the supervolcano theory and analyzing ash from ice cores worldwide to ascertain the last eruption timeline. “Identifying such calderas aids in understanding their potential global repercussions,” states geophysicist John Power.