Natural Disasters

Huge water 'lake' found beneath Bolivian volcano

Cerro Uturuncu volcano in the Bolivian Altiplano (Jon Blundy)

Cerro Uturuncu volcano in the Bolivian Altiplano (Jon Blundy)

Scientists have discovered what is kind of like a very big, extremely warm hot tub beneath a Bolivian volcano.

But you wouldn’t want to go scuba diving there anytime soon. The underwater “lake”— which is actually an anomaly that’s a mix of water, molten rock, and rock— is about 1,778 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study. The water is dissolved within the enormous, piping-hot, high-pressure soup that’s 10 miles beneath a dormant volcano called Uturuncu.

"The eight to ten percent of water dissolved in the massive anomaly region amounts to a total mass of water equivalent to what is found in some of the giant freshwater lakes of North America,” Jon Blundy, a professor at the University of Bristol and a coauthor of the new study, said in a statement. The anomaly is actually 80 to 90 percent solid.


The water amount is roughly comparable to what’s in Lake Superior. Because of the high water content, the underground anomaly was very electrically conductive, according to the new study.

The research has implications for learning more about how volcanoes erupt, and that has to do with bubbles, Blundy said.

"Silicate melt can only dissolve water at high pressure; at lower pressure this water comes out of the solution and forms bubbles,” Blundy said in the statement. “Crucially - these bubbles can drive volcanic eruptions.”

The research was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.