Researchers have a huge sweltering lake beneath a Bolivian volcano. The lake is not a place where one would like to go scuba diving. It is scorching and is about 1,778 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a mixture of water, molten rock and rock with the water dissolved in a hot, high-pressure soup under the dormant Volcano Uturuncu.
Though water which is dissolved accounts to only ten percent, it amounts to the total mass of water which is found in some of the giant freshwater lakes in the US. The structure is however 90% solid and because of the high water content is electrically conductive. The research will help in understanding the role bubbles play in the eruption of volcanoes.
The water gets dissolved in the silicate which is a major component of molten rock because of the high pressure, and when the pressure is released, it bubbles out just like what happens when a soda bottle is opened. These bubbles can drive or initiate a volcanic eruption.
Scientists estimate that the lake is located some 15 kilometres under the dormant volcano and has a water content of 1.5 cubic kilometres. The Uturuncu volcano has been classified as a dormant volcano, and it has a potential to erupt sometime in future. The volcano had erupted the last time some 270,000 years ago. Dormant volcanoes are very dangerous since their eruption can happen anytime with cataclysmic consequences.
Supervolcanoes have erupted in the past precipitating cold ages resulting in mass extinctions. Hence geologists continuously monitor such dormant volcanoes and predict future eruptions. The Bolivian Altiplano has been a site of active volcanism in the past 10 million years ago. However, there are no active volcanoes in this range in present times.