Danish researchers have discovered a unique volcano off the west coast of Greenland that may shed light on how the massive island was formed.
The volcano was found following a failed oil search, but researchers from the Geological Survey of Denmark for Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) took the investigation further and made an exciting discovery. The find was recently published in the scientific journal, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
“A systematic survey of all the crumbs from the boreholes showed that some of the samples from the well west of Nuuk contained a very high content of the elements zirconium and niobium,” Christian Knudsen, a GEUS researcher, told Videnskab.dk.
“It is characteristic of the type of volcanoes that form when a continent breaks up, which in this case occurred 95 million years ago when the supercontinent Pangea was broken up.”
A unique find
Scientists believe the discovery is special as it dates back to the Cretaceous period, when the supercontinent of Pangea was divided and Africa, Europe, and America slowly were drifting apart to form continents.
The subdivision created a lot of volcanoes along the entire Atlantic, but they are all under the seabed now and are therefore difficult to locate. At some point, the newly-discovered volcano was on land when it was active and it has a similar shape to Kilimanjaro in Africa.
Despite the volcano no longer being active, GEUS researchers found evidence in samples that volcanic rocks contained large volumes of volcanic glass, leading them to deduce that the volcano at some point erupted lava high into the air. The lava then cooled and descended in form of volcanic glass.
“Some of these types of volcanoes can send rocks up 10 kilometres into the stratosphere. We cannot say whether this volcano sent rocks and lava to such an altitude, but based on the contents of glass and small, round lava particles in the samples, we can at least ascertain that the stones have been propelled high and at velocity in order to be cooled down so quickly,” said Knudsen.
New knowledge about Greenland’s development
So far, scientists researching the geological development between Greenland and Canada, have used geological maps, and they have had to interpret geophysical measurements of the subsurface across the sea.
But this discovery provides new information about the development of the area, as well as important information about the time of formation. Thus, history and development can be matched with even greater accuracy than before.
After Pangea separated, the division between Greenland and Europe ended up becoming the north Atlantic. Researchers hope this volcano can provide new insight into that separation, which continues today.
“The Atlantic is still dividing today and Iceland, which is located at a point where the continents are still shifting, is being moved four inches a year. The volcano provides an insight into the mechanisms that initiated this whole process,” said Knudsen.