Massive Water Lake Discovered Beneath Bolivian Volcano

Posted: Nov 12 2016, 8:54am CST | by , Updated: Nov 12 2016, 8:57am CST , in Latest Science News


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Massive Water Lake Discovered Beneath Bolivian Volcano
Cerro Uturuncu volcano in the Bolivian Altiplano. Credit: Jon Blundy/University of Bristol

The reservoir of water mixed with partially molten rock could explain how and why volcanoes erupt

An international team of researchers have discovered a huge water lake underneath a volcano in Bolivia.

The lake is actually a reservoir of extremely hot water combined with melted rock. It has a temperature of about 1,778 degrees Fahrenheit and is flowing 15 kilometers below a dormant volcano called Cerro Uturuncu. The size of the lake is comparable to some of world’s biggest freshwater lakes such as Lake Superior.

Finding a water lake beneath a volcano is totally unexpected. The discovery in Bolivia indicates that more similar lakes could be lurking under other volcanoes around the world and they could help solve long-standing mystery of volcanic eruptions.

“This anomaly has a volume of one-and-a-half million cubic kilometers or more and is characterized by reduced seismic wave speeds and increased electrical conductivity. This indicates the presence of molten rock,” said Professor Jon Blundy from School of Earth Sciences, one of the researchers involved in the project said.

“The rock is not fully molten but partially molten. Only about 10 to 20 percent of the rock is actually liquid; the rest is solid. The rock at these depths is at a temperature of about 970°C.”

Researchers took the samples from the hot water lake and performed various high temperature and high pressure experiments in the laboratory of French institute. They also measured the electrical conductivity of the molten rock obtained from the region. Researchers found that there must be 8 to 10 percent of water dissolved in silicate melt, which represents a higher electrical conductivity.

“Silicate melt can only dissolve water at high pressure; at lower pressure this water comes out of the solution and forms bubbles. Crucially – these bubbles can drive volcanic eruptions.” Professor Blundy explained

Professor Fabrice Gaillard at University of Orléans explains the phenomena in this way. “Ten percent by weight of dissolved water means that there is one molecule of water for every three molecules of silicate. This is an extraordinary fraction of water, helping to explain why these silicate liquids are so electrically conductive.”

These findings not only help scientists understand the processes that trigger volcanic eruptions but can also help improve the predictions of when a volcano is going to erupt.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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