Certain volcanoes form above mantle plumes, upwellings of superheated material emerging from the boundary between the mantle and the liquid core. These so-called “hotspots” can appear anywhere on the planet and produce a range of long-lived volcanoes, from those that emit a ludicrous volume of lava (Hekla, Iceland), sometimes without stopping for decades (Kilauea, Hawaii), to supervolcanic cauldrons (Yellowstone, Wyoming).
As destructive as volcanic eruptions might sound, don’t forget that they are the creators of new crust, of new land to stand on. Just recently, a brand new island appeared off the coast of Japan. They are mainly seen as a hazard, but that’s only because we are literally standing in their way. They were erupting long before we arrived around 200,000 years ago.
Earthquakes are perhaps even more perplexing than volcanic eruptions. They occur along any plate boundary that builds up stress, including those that feature two sliding past each other in opposite directions (San Andreas Fault) or over each other in subduction zones (Japan Trench).
Weirdly, there are also intraplate earthquakes, those that happen between plate boundaries in the middle of continents (see the New Madrid Seismic Zone). Minor faults, ancient tectonic boundaries called “mantle scars”, and pushing and pulling of the entire landmass around them can trigger tremors in these unusual regions – but their mechanisms are largely mysterious. In other fault-less areas, human activity – particularly fracking – can cause fairly powerful earthquakes.
As cool as the E3 animation is by itself, researchers hope to use it to identify patterns in eruptions and earthquakes that, if they exist, haven’t been spotted yet. Do certain types of events take place at set frequencies, or along with other coinciding natural disasters?
Keep your eyes peeled, citizen scientists.
Hey hey, Hawaii. Radoslaw Lecyk/Shutterstock