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Experts Warn Earthquakes Coming From Supervolcano, Long Valley Caldera

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Scientists warn that the Long Valley Caldera, a massive supervolcano in California, has become restless. The last time that it erupted was about 760,000 years ago. Studying the volcano using infrared technology has revealed that it is forming a dome near Mammoth Lakes, California.

Scientists are not too worried yet, but it could destroy California and nearby areas if it erupts. Scientists believe it could cover the Los Angeles basin in ash over a half-mile thick if it erupts.

They are not worried yet because the supervolcano's liquid remains unorganized. While the structure lacks a large chamber for the liquid to collect, scientists point out that lava pockets are nearby.

Zhongwen Zhan, who has spent a lot of time studying the supervolcano at the California Institute of Technology, does not think it will erupt anytime soon.

Instead, he says it will likely cause numerous small earthquakes as it tries to reorganize itself. He says that small eruptions may also occur.

To better understand the Long Valley Caldera's appearance and function, Zhongwen Zhan assembled a network of fiber optic cables over 62 miles long across the Eastern Sierra region. This network acts like a series of 10,000 single-component seismometers, allowing researchers to see high-resolution images of the caldera for the first time.

Then, Zhan and his team used data from 2,000 seismic events to record what was happening with the supervolcano. They fed the data into a machine-learning program to help them analyze it.

Previous images were either low-resolution of the entire area or hyper-focused on one particular spot, but only at a depth up to about 15 feet.

Next, the team hopes to capture high-resolution images about 10 miles deep. They feel this is where the lava will initially collect when it comes together.

Researchers believe that the volcano is not ready to blow. Instead, it has a large, crystalized rock layer on top of its chamber, which they think is about seven miles below the Earth's surface. This rock layer indicates that the supervolcano is cooling instead of heating up.


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