An Enormous Supervolcano Might Be Lurking Underneath Alaska's Islands

If it erupted, it could have disrupted civilizations around the world.
Irmak Bayrakdar
The Aleutian Islands.NASA

The Aleutian Islands are a chain of volcanic islands located on the south coast of Alaska and they are home to 44 volcanoes. The island chain has a unique, arching land formation across the North Pacific toward the Russian coast.

Now, a new study suggests that underneath these islands, there might be a supervolcano and that these volcanic islands could just be one enormous caldera, a large, bowl-shaped geographic formation left behind a volcano's eruption.

An Enormous Supervolcano Might Be Lurking Underneath Alaska's Islands
The Aleutian Islands. Source: Unschool/Wikimedia Commons

To give you an idea about just how big the supervolcano is, John Power, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory, said that if the underlying behemoth had exploded in the last few thousand years, it could have disrupted civilizations around the world. 

Finding the underlying supervolcano

According to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union on December 7, the Aleutian Islands might be what's left behind after the underlying supervolcano's eruption. What's more, the supervolcano might be connecting six previously thought to be independent volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands.

Volcanoes including Herbert, Carlisle, Cleveland, Tana, Uliaga, and Kagamil may be a formation of a vent along the edge of a much larger volcano, with Cleveland being one of the most active volcanoes of the group. In addition to the geographic data, scientists used tiny seismometers to record multiple microearthquakes around these islands that extend farther east and north, hinting at one massive volcanic activity.

Even though the new findings are not yet confirmed, the study features strong evidence. The findings suggest that the current Aleutian volcanoes’ peaks form a ring shape. Through seafloor topography mapping, the team found arc-shaped ridges and a 426-foot-deep (130-meter) hollow in the center of the ring formation under the surface. 

Regarding the revelationary study, Power says that “these very large calderas have very large impacts globally,” and adds, “this potential identification helps us understand what we might expect, why Cleveland is so active, and understand the hazards.”

And if the possible discovery of a mysterious, gigantic supervolcano underneath the North Pacific scares you, the findings don't "always" necessarily have to point to a future catastrophe. The study team is still in the early stages of the research, and with more clues, they gain more information on the current and potential future hazards in this region and could one day actually prevent them.

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