Researchers from NASA, the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences and the Nevada Bureau of Mines have detected seismic activity under a region of northern Europe more powerful than scientists previously thought.
The area in question covers starts in the Eifel region of Germany, and covers parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg.
“Our findings suggest this region is an active volcanic system, and much more seismically active than many of the faults in Europe between the Eifel volcanic region and the Alps,” said Paul Davis, research professor of geophysics at UCLA and senior author of the study.
The study recorded subtle movements in the Earth’s crust which were unexpected, and suggest the region is still volcanically active. Down the aeons, scientists know, there has been volcanic activity, but it was thought to be long-dormant, with the last eruption taking place about 11,000 years ago.
But the team found that the region is rising and stretching – activity that is unusual in northern Europe. The movements are only in the order of millimetres a year, but that is still significant in geological terms, Prof. Davis said.
They then used GPS data to map the whole of western Europe and found out how the earth is moving vertically and horizontally. Overall, the movement takes on a dome-like shape, suggesting hot molten rock under the Earth’s surface is rising up towards the surface, causing the distortion.
“It seems clear that something is brewing underneath the heart of north-west Europe,” said Corné Kremer of the University of Nevada.
The researchers plan to continue monitoring the area to better understand any potential risks.
The results are published in the latest edition of Geophysical Journal International.
The Brussels Times