A new volcano might be forming in Oregon, according to reports. The US Geological Survey (USGS) says that a bulge in the Earth's crust, covering an area of around 100 square miles, seems to be getting bigger, suggesting that a large quantity of magma is on the move.
The bulge is in the vicinity of the Three Sisters, three now inactive volcanoes in the Oregon Cascade mountain range.
In March last year, the region saw a so-called seismic swarm - a series of around 350 small earthquakes, centred on the bulge itself about three miles away from the South Sister.
The activity and uplift of the ground in the area suggest an underground lake of molten rock around a mile across and 65 feet deep, according to the USGS.
The bulge was first spotted from space, and since 1997 has been swelling upwards at a rate of around an inch-and-a-half every year.
Speculation is also mounting as to the possible outcome. The bulge could be a prelude to the creation of a fourth sister, the geologists say, but it could lead to nothing more exciting than a rather drab pooling of liquid rock.
Even if anything as dramatic as a new volcano forming actually happens, the USGS says the risk to populated centres is small.
Although the Three Sisters peaks are near a town called Redmond, it is not the same Redmond as the one threatened by the simmering volcano that is Steve Ballmer. Imagine the pressure building up as he conducts exit interview after exit interview with almost-ex-employees heading for greener grass at Google.
We can only hope that the volcano and the CEO don't blow their tops at the same time. The resulting combined shockwave could well cause the atmosphere itself to burn, turning the air NT blue, and dooming all of mankind...[That's enough now - Ed]. ®