It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
California's Death Valley, already one of the hottest places on Earth, may have the potential to get a whole lot hotter — and live up to its name in a surprising (and possibly scary) new way, according to new research.
Scientists have long known that the craters that pepper this dry landscape were formed by long-ago volcanic eruptions, triggered when hot magma ascending from inside the planet hit pockets of water.
Some researchers now think the area erupted far more recently than thought, meaning the parched swath of central California, home to desolate salt flats and scalding temperatures, could be primed for a follow-up.
Dates for the geological catastrophe are fuzzy, but researchers used to think that Death Valley's largest crater, a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) wide gash in the Earth nearly 800 feet (240 meters) deep, formed in 4000 BC.
Yet new evidence uncovered by a team of scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory suggests the dramatic crater, called Ubehebe, last erupted only 800 hundred years ago.
Although that may sound like ancient history, in geological time 800 years is a mere blip. And because the crater formed relatively recently, it might still be restive, and plenty of liquid hot magma may still be lurking beneath it.
The evidence comes from chemical signatures trapped in small fragments of rocks the team gathered near Ubehebe. Dating techniques and analysis revealed that the rocks were birthed by eruptions that happen once every 1,000 years or so, and that the most recent large eruption occurred around the year 1300.