Guest Videos: The Socorro Magma Body

We’re still in New Mexico. In fact, we’re still in the Rio Grande Rift, about 130 miles south of the Valles Caldera that we visited in a virtual field trip last week.

It’s the same rugged semi-arid country that we saw up at Valles.

Looking around, there’s a mountain with a big “M” on it, but nothing marked “V” for “active volcano.”

Thor and a giant metal proxy for his adopted brother aren’t battling it out in the town nearby:

That’s very nice, but why would the National Radio Astronomy Observatory do a video about this small New Mexican town?

Well, they’ve made a serious investment in time, money, and human effort down the road, west of Socorro:

More about the Very Large Array (VLA).

But the birds don’t care. Each fall they stop for a while at nearby wildlife refuges during their migration south for the winter.

Of course, conditions that support birds support other wildlife, too;

High school marching bands are big here, too, and —

“STOP!” someone yells, “You aren’t telling us that all of this wonderful stuff exists on top of an active pool of magma, are you?”

Well, yes. It does.

The world’s second largest known reservoir of molten rock sits about 12 miles below the band’s marching feet.

I’m not real sure of the precise boundaries of the Socorro Magma Body — Bosque del Apache and the VLA might be outside, near the edges — but then, the geoscientists aren’t sure of many details about this underground active formation either, although they monitor it very carefully.

This is not a volcano; it has never erupted. It just sits there and rises very, very slowly.

It’s a big mystery, and all I can pass along is more information from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science on the Socorro Magma Body and a couple of links about the rift where it has formed:

  1. An FAQ
  2. A much shorter geologic tour.

Twelve miles is pretty deep, and this thing, although molten, doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. So all those fascinating places and people up at the surface are okay for the foreseeable future.

Next week, though, we’ll look at a big pool of magma in California that has erupted a few times in the past and, back in the 1980s, got the USGS in a world of trouble when they thought it might erupt again!

Featured image: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

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