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Scientists discover magma chamber under Taipei

Over 7 million people in northern Taiwan could be affected in the event the Tatun volcanoes erupted

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Lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A researcher at Academia Sinica has discovered a magma chamber beneath a large swath of New Taipei, signifying that the Tatun volcano group (TVG) in the area could be active, though there are no signs of an imminent eruption.

Lin Cheng-horng (林正洪), a researcher at the Academia Sinica's Institute of Earth Sciences, has concluded in a study published in the journal Nature that there is a magma chamber 20 kilometers beneath the Wanli and Jingshan districts of New Taipei.

He reached his conclusion late last year after analyzing data from 40 seismic monitoring stations positioned around the TVG over the course of three years.

According to experts, if the Tatun volcanoes were to erupt, residents on Yangmingshan, Shilin, Tianmu, and Beitou districts would bear the brunt of its force. Volcanic ash would cover northern Taiwan, Taipei would experience earthquakes over 6 in magnitude, and the safety of two nearby nuclear power plants would be threatened.

Lin estimates that the magma chamber is about 1/4 the size of New Taipei City at about 15 kilometers in length and 16 kilometers in width and is about four to ten kilometers thick.

Previous studies of lava dating showed that the volcanoes last erupted 200,000 years ago. However, the most recent study carried out volcanic lava cores in 2009 indicated that an eruption may have occurred as recently as 5,000 years ago.

As for when the next eruption may occur, Lin told Apple Daily "it could happen in a few years, 10 years, or many decades later, it will require much more research to be better understood."

The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) Director-General Shin Tzay-chyn (辛在勤) told CNA there is not yet enough evidence to prove that the volcanoes are active and the CWB's monitoring system has not detected any signs that magma is moving toward the surface in TVG.