The world's biggest and fastest growing mud volcano, Lusi sprang to life in May 2006, and it and may continue to spew hot mud for another 26 years, according to a new study. Lusi could expel the equivalent of 56,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of mud before it finally simmers down, say scientists from the U.K.'s Durham University.
Mud volcanoes, which can appear on land or underwater, form when underground layers of silt or clay become pressurized either by tectonic activity or by a buildup of hydrocarbon gases.
To calculate Lusi's future mud flow, the team observed water pressure in a borehole near the volcano and combined that data with knowledge of the rocks' properties and mudflow volumes since 2006. (See pictures of Indonesia's mud volcanoes.)
"The calculation should enable a better assessment of the final impact of the disaster and gives the inhabitants of [East Java] an indication of how long they can expect to be affected by mud from the volcano," study leader Richard Davies said in a statement.
In the nearly five years since Lusi reawakened, villages have disappeared under the mud, which is 60 feet (18 meters) deep in places, according to a 2008 article in National Geographic magazine. Thirteen people have died and at least 10,000 families have been forced from their homes, according to the Durham University scientists.
The mud volcano study appeared in March in the Journal of the Geological Society.