The Salton Buttes, a line of four small volcanoes on the Salton Sea’s southeastern shore, are not only still considered active by scientists, new research indicates they last erupted thousands of years more recently than previously thought, reports ISun news on Thursday.
With increased earthquake activity, sulfur smells and mud volcanoes at the Salton Sea, the U.S. Geological Survey is wondering if there is a possibility that there could soon be a volcano eruption.
Patt Abbott, a geologist that was part of a research group says, “Most definitely volcanic activity is possible.”
Abbott was part of a research group that collected aerial footage of muddy pits and volcanic gases about 100 miles east on the southern end of the Salton Sea, reports San Diego 10 News.
At that location are the Salton Buttes and underneath is a magma pool about 2 to 4 miles down.
Abbott is worried that a major earthquake could create a path for the magma and it would reach the surface.
Abbott said that an earthquake, “really pumps energy into a freshly enlarged magma body.”
Just last August, Brawley, which is near the Salton Sea was hit by over 100 earthquakes, with the largest hitting 5.5 on the Richter Scale. The USGS attributed the temblors to faults in the Brawley Seismic Zone, reports San Diego 10 news.
“It’s certainly a concern to geologists,” Bruce Perry, an Earth sciences lecturer at California State University-Long Beach told US Today. “When you get these swarms, it’s often an indicator of an upward movement of magma. And if the magma breaches the surface, you have a volcanic eruption.”
In September, a rotten egg smell, reached Riverside and Los Angeles County. It was initially blamed on the dying fish in the Salton sea, but now scientists think it may have been caused by volcanic gases, which are known to let off geo-excreted solids, liquids and gases like sulfur dioxide gas that smells like rotten eggs.
“It’s very unusual that any odor would be this widespread, from the Coachella to Los Angeles County. We’re talking well over 100 miles. I can’t recall ever confirming an odor traveling that distance, said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The Salton Sea, which is around 50 feet deep has had bad smells coming from it for decades, and lately the waterline has uncovered thermal fields with geysers and mud pots that bubble and gurgle.
Dr. Victor M. Ponce, San Diego State University said “These volcanoes are unusual but they have been documented all over the world. They resemble volcanoes but they do not have lava.”
No lava that is unless the magma finds a path to the surface which would result in erupting lava and spewing ash that could make it’s way to San Diego County.
“The way the ash gets to San Diego is if we have Santa Ana winds,” said Abbott.
“Eventually, something is going to come to the surface in the Salton Sea area, said Patrick Muffler, a USGS geologist from Palo Alto who has researched geothermal energy for 40 years told US Today. “But we’re a long, long way from being able to make any predictions on that.”
In February USGS opened the California Volcano Observatory to monitor the state’s volcanoes and their activity. The Salton Buttes are among the state’s newest volcanoes.