A chain of supervolcanoes on the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian ocean erupted continuously for 30 million years, according to a study published in the journal Geology.
Researchers from Curtin University and the University of Tasmania in Australia, as well as Uppsala University in Sweden, said that the supervolcanoes were fueled by a “magma conveyor belt.” This acted as a Bunsen burner that kept the magma molten and flowing, resulting in a remarkably long period of eruption.
“Other volcanoes would stop erupting because, when temperatures cooled, the channels became clogged by ‘frozen’ magmas,” said coauthor Hugo K.H. Olierook of Curtin’s John de Laeter Center and School of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Kerguelen volcanoes erupted for 30 million years
At three times the size of Japan, the Kerguelen Plateau is one of the largest volcanic plateaus in the world. The plateau, which lies more than 1,800 miles to the southwest of Fremantle in Western Australia, is a large igneous province (LIP) predominantly submerged in ocean water.
LIPs are landforms created out of extremely large accumulations of volcanic rocks. According to lead author Qiang Jiang, Olierook’s colleague at Curtin, these landforms are interesting to study because they’re associated with mass extinctions, rapid climatic disturbances and ore deposit formation.
For their study, the researchers determined the age of several black basaltic rocks taken from the bottom of the Kerguelen seafloor using an argon-argon dating technique.
The team found that the volcanoes in the Kerguelen Plateau erupted from around 122 to 90 million years ago and spewed lava at a rate of about eight inches every year. At this rate and considering the size of the Kerguelen Plateau, Jiang said that the volcanoes must have filled an equivalent of 184,000 Olympic-size swimming pools every single year. That’s equal to 5.5 trillion lava-filled swimming pools over the entire eruptive duration of the volcanoes.
“This volume of activity continued for
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