Researchers have discovered a creeping, tree-like network of volcanic plumes beneath the Earth’s surface that could erupt and destroy Africa in tens of millions of years
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A fascinating, if not mildly frightening, discovery has been made that suggests a tree the size of a Titanic is hiding underground, feeding the earth’s volcanoes.
But let’s provide some context, as you may need to channel your inner GCSE student to understand what’s going on far below and out of sight.
Reunion, a French island in the western Indian Ocean, is known for its rainforests, coral reefs and beaches.
It also sits atop one of the largest and most active volcanic hotspots in the world.
Beneath the surface lies an extensive mantle plume—pillars of superheated rock—reaching down to Earth’s core-mantle boundary.
If you can envision a plume of smoke rising in a rough line before expanding into a balloon-like head, that’s about how you might envision a mantle cloud.
Just add a few thousand degrees for the extra temperature to melt the earth’s crust and you’ve nailed it.
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When the magma from these plumes reaches the Earth’s surface, it eventually cools and forms a “floor.” This helps in part to explain the Hawaiian Islands, which are nowhere near the fertile chain of volcanoes known as the “Ring of Fire”.
However, scientists have discovered more to this theory than individual pillars of fire beneath the surface.
Instead, they have discovered a vast network of mantle plumes connected in a tree-like manner and stretching for thousands of kilometers.
MAP COURTESY OF USGS)
In the here and now, this cloud feeds one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the Piton de la Fournaise. You guessed it, nestled on the French island of Reunion.
But if you travel back in time about 65 million years ago, this cloud is thought to have been the ignition point for a gigantic lava eruption that created an area known as the Deccan Traps.
When the cloud was below what is now India, its geological tantrum was strong enough to suffocate 1.5 million square kilometers of land. That’s enough to bury Texas, California and Montana together.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
So while it’s clear to see that this plume packs a punch (which also powers a highly volcanic region in East Africa), it’s not clear how extensive — and therefore how dangerous — it is.
A team of geophysicists and seismologists set out to map the cloud in 2012.
Nearly a decade later, their findings spawned the theory that a titan-sized tree exists beneath the Earth’s surface, connecting superheated branch-like structures that grew from a root estimated to be nearly as old as the Earth itself.
Stepping back to contemplate such an aged natural structure will make you consider the fact that these volcanic tunnels have been building a canopy of tree feathers for billions of years, seemingly unnoticed.
To be honest, it’s a little scary when you think about the Netflix series Stranger Things and the “vice versa”.
The team published a report in nature geosciences that as these branches approach the crust, smaller, vertically ascending branches appear to sprout — super-hot plumes that underlie known surface volcanic hotspots.
Assuming these tunnel-like branches continue to spread, researchers could have their eyes on the planet’s future.
Karin Sigloch, co-author of the study, said: “If you look at the core-mantle boundary, maybe you can predict where the oceans will open up.”
In fact, the theory posits that tens of millions of years from now, the branch of the mantle cloud currently lurking beneath Africa could send up an erupting clump large enough to dwarf the Deccan Traps.
With that in mind, if we haven’t moved to another planet by then, maybe emigration from Africa is the next best choice.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/titanic-sized-tree-feeding-earths-27005637 The titanic-sized tree that feeds the earth's volcanoes from a small French island