A year-long geologic study conducted by the National Park Service has determined that there is an active volcano in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Scientists from the National Park Service began considering the possibility that a volcano could exist in the region after an earthquake hit the Smoky Mountains in February 2015. Although the 2.1 magnitude earthquake was a minor tremor, it raised red flags among geologists. Earthquakes in the Smoky Mountains are exceedingly rare, with only three quakes on record within the national park boundaries.
While the first earthquake occurred in 1979, the earthquakes in 2011 and 2015 were only a few years apart. Unusual earthquake patterns can indicate the presence of volcanic activity, so the National Park Service assembled a team of researchers to investigate.
To search for a possible volcano, scientists installed a number of seismometer stations around the park and used planes with airborne radar to scan the mountains. After a year of gathering data, the geologists uncovered a vast magma chamber beneath Mount LeConte. In the National Park Service press release, lead researcher Dr. Andrew Johnson admits that the discovery was truly shocking:
“I was dumbfounded. Of course, we knew this was a possibility; that’s why we were doing all of this research in the first place. But to find a massive reservoir full of magma right under our noses…It just boggles the mind.”