It turns out volcanoes with active lava lakes are very rare, but scientists added an 8th to the list.
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Until recently, only seven volcanoes out of 1,500 active volcanoes worldwide were known to have lakes of bubbling lava, but in July 2019 scientists discovered an eighth. The most recent lava lake discovery is in a volcanic mountain called Mount Michael, and it’s located on one of the South Sandwich Islands roughly 1,000 miles from Antarctica.
The lake of lava in the Mount Michael volcano was discovered as a result of decades of satellite imagery, as no one has ever summited the volcanic mountain on account of the incredibly steep sides.
In the ‘90s and early 2000s, thermal anomalies were spotted on Mount Michael but the image quality was not advanced enough to make a certain conclusion. But from 2003 to 2018, various missions collected new, better data that allowed researchers to conclude the volcano was home to a lake of lava approximately 70 to 150 meters across, and potentially as hot as nearly 1,300 degrees celsius.
While Mount Michael is fairly remote, and doesn’t pose a threat to anyone, new lava lake discoveries offer the opportunity for further study and clues on how to avoid volcanic disasters in the future.
On this episode of Elements, learn more about the eighth known lava lake in the world, how the mountain’s lava lakes were discovered, and how Mount Michael’s discovery can help us respond to and predict potential volcanic disasters in the future.
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The Mystifying Structures Hidden Within Earth’s Mantle
Rare Lava Lake Found on Top of Sub-Antarctic Volcano
“The new lava lake is found on the summit of Mount Michael on Saunders Island, which is part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.”
Evidence for a lava lake on Mt. Michael volcano, Saunders Island (South Sandwich Islands) from Landsat, Sentinel-2 and ASTER satellite imagery
“Mt. Michael is an active stratovolcano on Saunders Island in the South Sandwich Islands; a remote, oceanic island arc in the southern Atlantic Ocean, bordering the Southern Ocean.”
The Most Dangerous Volcano in the World: A tale of Nyiragongo
“On the 10th of January, 1977, the crater wall holding the lava lake ruptured. (The exact reason this happened has not yet been well understood, and this is why Nyiragongo still needs to be studied, to predict if this can happen again.) Within 30 mins, the entire lava lake had drained, sending an estimated 3 to 5 million cubic meters of lava to the north, west, and south of Nyiragongo.”
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