By Stacy Liberatore for Dailymail.com
18:58 23 October 2023, Updated 19:33 23 October 2023
- A dormant supervolcano has increased seismic activity over the years
- Experts have identified more than 2,000 earthquakes throughout the Long Valley caldera
- Read more: California’s deadly ‘Big One’ could be caused by volcanic eruptions
California’s super volcano is showing signs of activity, with the potential to bury Los Angeles in more than 3,000 feet of ash.
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have identified more than 2,000 earthquakes across the Long Valley caldera in recent years.
The team conducted a new investigation to see if the seismic activity was a sign of impending doom or a reduced risk of a massive eruption.
Caltech researchers created detailed underground images of the caldera, revealing that recent seismic activity has cooled and settled the exposed area of fluids and gases.
Study author Zhongwen Zhan said: ‘We don’t think this region is preparing for another supervolcanic eruption, but the cooling process could release enough gas and liquid to cause earthquakes and small eruptions.
‘For example, in May 1980, there were four magnitude 6 earthquakes in the region alone.’
An important finding with the images is that the volcano’s magma chamber is covered by a thick layer of crystallized rock, formed as liquid magma cools and solidifies.
The long-dormant volcano was the site of a super-eruption 767,000 years ago that released 140 miles of volcanic material into the atmosphere and devastated the land.
Read more: Yellowstone’s supervolcano — which could be devastating when it next erupts — holds twice as much magma as previously believed, study finds
Previous images showed a lower concentration of only 10 percent, but new research suggests the caldera contains 16 to 20 percent magma.
John and his team placed dozens of seismographs across the eastern Sierra region to capture seismic readings in a process called distributed acoustic sensing (DAS).
They covered 62 miles of the caldera with cables to capture underground snapshots.
Over a year and a half, the team used the cable to measure more than 2,000 seismic events, too small for people to feel.
A machine learning algorithm processes those measurements and creates a resulting image that shows the locations of each earthquake.
Emily Montgomery-Brown, said an expert on the Long Valley caldera who was not involved in the study LA Times A flurry of earthquakes began in 2011.
These earthquakes were followed by land deformation in which the ground rose and the tremors dissipated in 2020, leaving the area quiet.
But she warns that an explosion is still on the table.
A 2018 study found that the Long Valley caldera contains 240 cubic miles of magma beneath the surface.
“Although the Long Valley magma reservoir has been depleted, there are other pockets of magma in the area,” Montgomery-Brown said.
If the caldera erupts, it will overshadow the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which ejected just 0.29 cubic miles of volcanic material into the atmosphere.
In fact, the valley’s 240 cubic miles of magma storage is enough to fill 400 million Olympic swimming pools.