A new study, discussed in National Geographic, indicates that a volcano in Death Valley National Park is younger – much younger – than previously thought. Until now, scientists thought the eruptions that caused California's Ubehebe Crater occured thousands of years ago. New research hints that they occurred 800 years ago. Death Valley is pretty much the same today as it was eight centuries ago, which means conditions might be ripe for another potential eruption.
Andrew Newman, associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, says it takes a very long time for a volcano to be deemed "extinct."
"Before this paper, we already knew Ubehebe was relatively young due to erosional features, but could not put a very precise time on it. Thus, while this event is now clearly very young and around the period of human existence, it doesn't really say too much about its current livelihood. It is generally considered that if a volcano has erupted in the past 10,000 years or so, it is probably not extinct since it takes at least that long before such systems could again cool sufficiently to sufficiently hamper its future eruption potential."
Newman studies volcanoes around the world but was not involved in the current Death Valley research.
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