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400 km depth in the heart of Europe you can hide a still-active volcano . It is found under the lakes of the German region of Eifel and close to some densely populated areas of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. American scientists have come to this disturbing conclusion after reviewing data from thousands of GPS antennas all over the continent to track subtle movements in the earth’s surface . As explained in “Geophysical Journal International”, the new data do not imply an impending eruption -can’t even be sure that this happens in the future-but call enough attention for researchers to remain vigilant.

The German region of Eifel, is located approximately between the cities of Aachen, Trier and Koblenz. It is the home of the “maars” , a few lakes circular fomados by violent volcanic eruptions in the past, such as the one that created Laacher See, the largest lake of the area. It is believed that the explosion that caused it happened about 13,000 years ago and was as strong as the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991. The last eruption in the area occurred 11,000 years ago. The “maars” are common in the Eifel, where they were described for the first time, but can also be found in some areas of the united States and in other volcanic regions geologically young people of the world.

GPS Observations of the movement of the soil under the area of Eifel. The colors represent the vertical motion inferred from GPS data, and the arrows are black and white indicate the direction in which the crust is stretched or compressed horizontally, respectively. The upward movement higher of ~ 1 mm per year is near the volcanic field of the Eifel – Corné Kreemer, University of Nevada, RenoUn millimeter per year

The researchers believe that the plume in the mantle, lifting the material more warm mantle, which probably fed this old crater is still present, extending up to 400 km towards the earth’s surface. However, it is unknown if it is still active or not. “Most scientists had assumed that the volcanic activity in the Eifel was a thing of the past -signal Corné Kreemer, lead author of the new study-but connecting the dots, it seems clear that something is brewing underneath the heart of northwest Europe”.

The team from the universities of Nevada, Reno, and California, Los Angeles, used data from thousands of GPS antennas commercial and state throughout western Europe, to determine how the ground moves vertically and horizontally as the earth’s crust is being pushed, stretched and cut.

The investigation revealed that the land surface of the region moves upward and outward over a large area centered in the Eifel, which includes Luxembourg, eastern Belgium and the southernmost province of the Netherlands, Limburg. “The fact that this happens means that you must still have the material warm under the earth’s crust that feeds volcanoes”, explains Kreemer in an email to ABC.

There are some other indicators that the whole system is active: some of the lakes still releasing many gases that scientists associated with the mantle. “Other evidence of ongoing activity was obtained in the last year, when a study found small earthquakes beneath the Laacher See (lake maar largest in the area) and showed that its characteristics could be explained by the transport of fluids (possibly magma) in the lower part of the crust,” he adds. The affected area is large (including parts of Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and all Luxembourg). The elevation reaches a millimeter per year in the Eifel and extends horizontally another millimeter per year.

there are No imminent risk

in Addition, the new report indicates not only that there may be an increased volcanic risk, but also a seismic risk long-term in this part of Europe. The researchers point out that there is no reason for alarm, but for surveillance. “No one would claim that the volcano is really active, as is thought to see, for example, Mount Etna. And no one thinks that an eruption is imminent. However, it is good to know what would happen if some day they occur”, indicates Kreemer. “The eruption or explosion bigger than we know in the past (the Laacher See of 13,000 years ago produced a 6 cu km of magma and 16 cubic kilometers of ‘tephra’ (ash). The eruption can be compared to that of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, and, for example, was much larger than that of the Mount St. Helens in 1980. The ash eruption of the Laacher See is spread over a large part of Europe,” recalls the researcher.

the Eifel is a region of exceptional, but not the only one in Europe. Something similar occurs in the Massif Central, in the centre south of France, where the last volcanic activity occurred about 7,000 years. Some scientists have also photographed a column of mantle beneath this area. “While our study found that the cortex is stretched there, we did not see a sign of elevation is convincing. Of course that could be due to that a smaller area is bringing more of what we see in the Eifel, at the same time that there are fewer GPS stations, so we just don’t have the resolution to view the upheaval. Further measures are needed to resolve this,” he explains.