‘Jurassic World’ of volcanoes discovered in Central Australia

A PREVIOUSLY undescribed 'Jurassic World' of around 100 ancient volcanoes buried deep underground has been discovered in Central Australia.

The volcanoes were developed in the Jurassic period, between 180 and 160 million years ago, and have been subsequently buried beneath hundreds of meters of sedimentary or layered rocks.

An international team of subsurface explorers from the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland made the discovery with advanced subsurface imaging techniques.

The Cooper-Eromanga Basins in the northeastern corner of South Australia and southwestern corner of Queensland is Australia's largest onshore oil and gas producing region.

Despite about 60 years of petroleum exploration and production, this ancient Jurassic volcanic underground landscape has gone largely unnoticed.

Associate Professor Simon Holford from the University of Adelaide said there could be many more volcanoes underneath other parts of Australia.

"Its discovery raises the prospect that more undiscovered volcanic worlds reside beneath the poorly explored surface of Australia," he said.

Associate Professor Nick Schofield from the University of Aberdeen said rocks bearing oil, gas and water have been economically important for Australia, however this latest discovery suggests a lot more volcanic activity in the Jurassic period than previously supposed.

"This has led to a massive amount of available data from underneath the ground but, despite this, the volcanoes have never been properly understood in this region until now," he said.

"The Cooper-Eromanga Basins have been substantially explored since the first gas discovery in 1963."

The Cooper-Eromanga Basins are now a dry and barren landscape but in Jurassic times, the researchers say, would have been a landscape of craters and fissures. It would have spewed hot ash and lava into the air, and surrounded by networks of river channels, evolved into large lakes and coal-swamps.