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World's longest Continental Volcanic Chain discovered in Australia

Sep 16, 2015 16:37 IST

The team of scientists led by Rhodri Davies, an earth scientist at Australian National University, have discovered the longest chain of continental volcanoes of the world in Australia, stretching almost 2000 km along Australia's east coast.

The findings were published in the journal Nature on 14 September 2015 with the title Lithospheric controls on magma composition along Earth’s longest continental hotspot track.

The 1240-mile-long (2000 kilometres) chain of fire spanned most of eastern Australia, from Hillsborough in the north, where rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, to the island of Tasmania in the south. This track is three times the length of famous Yellowstone hotspot track on the North American continent.

The volcanic chain includes 15 ancient volcanoes that researchers already knew about, but they have now shown that these 15 volcanoes formed from the same hotspot in the Earth's mantle over the past 33 million years, as the Australian continent moved northwards.

This type of volcanic chain is named as a Cosgrove Hotspot Track and they are unusual as they do not form over a tectonic plate boundary, where most volcanoes are found. Instead they form over hotspots caused by magma plumes almost 3000 km below the Earth's surface.

This newly discovered Cosgrove hotspot track is now located under the sea a little to the northwest of Tasmania, which means that there's no risk of them erupting anymore.

The groups of volcanoes are around 700 km apart. The researchers also found that some areas of the Australian continent are too thick to let the heat of the mantle plumes rise close enough to Earth's surface for it to melt and form magma.

It is the only place where Earth's solid outer layer, called the lithosphere, is thinner than 130 km that volcanoes formed.

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