Scientists say magma build-up beneath Matata explains unusual earthquake activity but is far from becoming an active volcano.
A magma chamber has been discovered underneath the coastal town of Matata in New Zealand, approximately 200 kilometres (120 miles) southeast of Auckland, raising the possibility of a new volcano formation. Scientists say an eruption is out of the question in the near future.
Matata, located in the North Island of New Zealand, is home to about 650 people.
Geophysicist Ian Hamling said that magma has squeezed up beneath the surface in the town since 1950. Magma is molten rock and other particulates found beneath the surface of the earth.
The discovery now explains the strange sequence of earthquakes that took place in Matata between 2004 and 2011, previously thought to be caused by tectonic shifts.
In a paper published in the online journal Science Advances, Hamling said even though many volcanoes can be found in New Zealand, none were found near Matata for at least 400,000 years. "It was quite a big surprise," he said.
Scientists discovered an area of land measuring about 400 square kilometre (154 square miles) had risen by 40 centimetres (16 inches) since 1950.
According to Hamling, the magma found could eventually create a new volcano after hundreds or thousands of years.
Scientists used equipment which allowed them to measure tiny horizontal and vertical changes on the coastal island. Hamling hopes eventually a warning system could be developed for earthquakes following further investigation of the area.
Volcanos are not new to New Zealand.
Mount Ruapehu, which is also known as "Mount Doom" and was featured in The Lord of the Rings movies, has recently shown some signs of possible eruption. It is located in North Island's Tongariro National Park.
The increased volcanic activity has worried geologists and the department of conservation has warned hikers and climbers to stay away from the area as is it considered a danger zone.
Mount Ruapehu last erupted on September 25, 2007.
The quake and volcano monitoring service, GNS, issued a volcano alert over the possible eruption due to recent signs it's been showing.