Aberdeen scientists have discovered a Jurassic world of around 100 ancient volcanoes buried deep beneath the ground in Australia.
The team from Aberdeen University have been working with subsurface explorers from Adelaide to carry out surveys of land under the largest onshore oil and gas producing region.
The Cooper-Eromanga Basins, a dry and barren landscape based in the north-eastern corner of South Australia, has been the site of about 60 years of petroleum exploration.
However, the ancient underground landscape has largely gone unnoticed.
The volcanoes developed during the Jurassic period, between 180 and 160 million years ago, and have subsequently been buried beneath hundreds of metres of sedimentary rocks.
Researchers used advanced subsurface imaging techniques, analogous to medical CT scanning, to identify the volcanic craters and lava flows and the deeper magma chambers that fed them.
It is thought the area would have been a landscape of craters and fissures, spewing hot ash and lava into the air, and surrounded by networks of river channels, evolving into large lakes and coal-swamps.
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The newly discovered region has been named the Warnie Volcanic Province in honour of Australian cricketer Shane Warne.
Associate Professor Nick Schofield, from the geology department at Aberdeen University, is a co-author of the report.
“The Cooper-Eromanga Basins have been substantially explored since the first gas discovery in 1963,” he said.
“This has led to a massive amount of available data from underneath the ground but the volcanics have never been properly understood in this region until now.
“It changes how we understand processes that have operated in the Earth’s past.”