THREE new volcanoes discovered in the Penshurst region may yet deliver a blast not seen since prehistoric times.
But there is no need to panic just yet, with Monash University researchers responsible for the new discoveries saying volcanic eruptions are rare in Australia, with a frequency of one every 10,800 years or less. The last eruption occurred 5000 years ago.
The new volcanoes were discovered around Mount Rouse at Penshurst, at the heart of newer volcanic precinct (NVP), a still active 19,000-square-kilometre volcanic field of more than 400 of the youngest Australian volcanoes spanning Victoria and South Australia.
The NVP is considered active as carbon dioxide is released from the Earth’s mantle in several areas, where there is a large heat anomaly at depth.
Lead researcher Julie Boyce said the discoveries were made possible by analysing a combination of satellite photographs, detailed NASA models of the topography of the area and the distribution of magnetic minerals in the rocks, alongside site visits to build a detailed picture of the Hamilton region of the NVP.
She said this is the first time that all four research tools have been used for a single study, which could influence similar volcanic studies around the world.
“The surprising discovery means additional volcanic centres may yet be discovered in the NVP,” Ms Boyce said.
“Though it’s been more than 5000 years since the last volcanic eruption in Australia, it’s important that we understand where, when and how these volcanoes erupted.
“The province is still active, so there may be future eruptions.”
Kanawinka Geopark director Ian Lewis said it was an exciting discovery that changed the way vulcanologists would look at the whole region.
“The last eruption was at Blue Lake in Mount Gambier, and the further west you head the younger the volcanoes become,” he said.
“There was an earthquake off the coast of South Australia about a century ago where lava spilled into the bed, so that is where everyone thought the next eruption would be.
“The discovery of these new areas change that and will hopefully lead to further research of the whole area.”
He said it was very exciting for the Penshurst Volcano Discovery Centre, who now find themselves in the middle of a “more active region”.