Australia Is Hiding The World's Largest Chain Of Dormant Supervolcanoes

Things are bigger in Australia. Just ask the team of scientists that found the world's largest chain of supervolcanoes hiding down the Eastern flank of our fine continent.

The newly-discovered chain runs for 2000 kilometres down the country, starting at the Whitsundays in North Queensland down to around Melbourne in the country's south. That makes it three times longer than the chain in Yellowstone in the United States.

Scientists say the supervolcano chain was formed over the last 33 million years, with Australia moving gradually north to settle over a hotspot in our planet's mantle.

Dr Rhodri Davies from The Australian National University heads up the project, and said that the finding is "surprising":

This kind of volcanic activity is surprising because it occurs away from tectonic plate boundaries, where most volcanoes are found. These hotspots are thought to form above mantle plumes, narrow upwellings of hot rock that originate at Earth's core-mantle boundary almost 3,000 kilometres below the surface.

Despite the fact that there might be supervolcanoes under our feet, we shouldn't panic. Scientists say that our continent is so thick in parts that it the hot rock can't rise to the surface in order to form magma.

There are areas where the lithosphere is thin enough for it to rise to the surface, however. Places like Northern NSW, for example are thin enough for the track to affect the minerals in the area.

Image: Drew Whitehouse, NCI National Facility VizLab

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