A new report in Nature journal has shed light on an undiscovered chain of continental volcanoes stretching across the expanse of eastern Australia. The chain, which spans more than 2,000 kilometers between the states of Queensland and Victoria, is now thought to be the world’s longest continuous trail of extinct volcanoes.
Starting in Cape Hillsborough, moving through central New South Wales and down to Cosgrove in Victoria, the chain of volcanoes is thought to be many millions of years old. Speaking to the ABC, lead author Dr. Rhodri Davies offered details of the subterranean phenomenon. “This volcanic chain was created over the past 33 million years, as Australia moved north-northeast over a mantle plume hotspot which we believe is now located in Bass Strait,” he explained. “This track, which we’ve named the Cosgrove hotspot track, is nearly three times as long as the famous Yellowstone hot spot tracks on the North American continent.”
Dr. Davies believes the find has the potential to change geologists’ understanding of those factors which contributed to the earth’s development. “By looking at this chain of volcanoes in Australia and understanding the composition of the volcanic rock and how they evolved with time, we will understand volcanism on other continents and through earlier periods in Earth’s history which is still poorly understood.”
The scientists happened upon the discovery after examining fifteen extinct volcanoes located on the eastern seaboard. Despite the volcanoes being known to local researchers for some time, Dr. Davies’ team eventually came to the conclusion that the sites were linked. “The volcanoes in central Queensland showed an age progression, so they got younger towards the south, and so too did those in New South Wales and Victoria,” the researcher explained. “Australia is actually the fastest moving continent on Earth, moving towards Indonesia at around seven centimeters per year.”
Dr. Davies and the other authors hope their studies will refine our understanding of volcanism and encourage a new generation of geologists to uncover exciting new scientific truths.
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