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Mexico City (AFP) – Could a volcanic eruption off Mexico cause a tsunami similar to the one that struck Tonga recently? What really drives the movement of tectonic plates? Scientists isolated themselves on a desert island armed with new hypotheses about volcanoes and earthquakes.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, more than 700 kilometers off the west coast of Mexico, the Revillagigedo archipelago is a type of Mexican “Galapagos,” referring to the islands off Ecuador that are rich in great biodiversity.
Ten scientists from different backgrounds and universities (Dutch, Mexican, French, Cuban, German, American) took about thirty hours to reach these deserted islands by boat in mid-March – with the exception of a Mexican naval base – popular among scuba-diving marine animal lovers (whales dolphins, sharks…).
The goal of their week-long mission last month on the volcano-side in a swampy wilderness to sleep on the boat: to better understand the risks of eruption and the movement of tectonic plates.
“We are trying to understand how explosive and dangerous these volcanoes are,” expedition leader Doi van Hensbergen, professor of tectonics and ancient geography at Utrecht University, told AFP.
Scientists will verify their hypotheses in the coming months based on analysis of the rock and mineral samples they collected.
For example, could an eruption have the same results on the Mexican coast as the eruption of the Hongga Tonga-Hung Hapai volcano in January in Tonga?
“Where there are islands with active volcanoes, they can generate tsunamis,” Mexican geologist Pablo Davila Harris of the San Luis Potosi Institute for Scientific and Technological Research told AFP.
“Volcanologists are trying to figure out when the next eruption will occur,” adds the expert, who points to models based on previous eruptions.
One of the archipelago’s volcanoes, Barcena, erupted in 1953, and the other, Evermann, in 1993. Both are still active.
On these islands on ocean ridges, the team also sought to understand the origin of the earthquakes threatening Mexico.
Mineral analysis should aid in understanding the movement of tectonic plates.
Douwe van Hinsbergen asks, “The plates move on the Earth’s mantle. Does the mantle push the plates? Is the mantle doing nothing?”
His theory: The Earth’s mantle could be a “large lake of non-convective rock”, that is, movement in the origin of plate tectonics.
Instead, it would be like “gravity pulling the plates down. This would simplify the entire system,” he continues.
The expedition received funding from a Dutch program to study “ideas that are certainly wrong but if not of significant effects,” he asserts, half serious and half sarcastic.
Rock and mineral samples were sent to Europe for laboratory analysis.
Will we learn more about volcanoes and earthquakes? Answer at the end of the year.
© 2022 AFP