Rare mud volcano explodes into towering inferno in Caspian Sea

After a huge explosion in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas fields, a towering inferno hundreds of feet high erupted above the Caspain Sea on Sunday, July 4. Who is the culprit? Authorities now believe it was a mud volcano.The explosion occurred at 9:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.) local time. ET) approximately 6 miles (10 km) from Umid gas field. This is located 45 miles (75km) off Azerbaijan's capital Baku. It continued to burn into Monday morning according to BBC.Initial suspicions were that there was an accident at one the many oil and gas rigs. However, the state oil company SOCAR announced that preliminary investigations had determined that the cause of the explosion was a mud volcano and that no platforms had been damaged.Related: Five of the most active volcanoes in the worldImage credit: Shutterstock. A mud volcano eruption at Gobustan National Park, near Baku.Mud volcanoes, a rare type if volcanoes, erupt from a superheated slurry mud and water rather than lava. This means that they don't get hotter as regular volcanoes. They also have high levels of natural gas that can build up within them. These gases can be ignited when sparks are created beneath the surface by rocks and boulders moving fast. This is what may have caused the Caspian Sea's recent inferno.Azerbaijan is home to around 400 of the approximately 1,000 mud volcanoes found on Earth. This, combined with the country's abundance of oil and natural gas resources, earned it the "Land of Fire," according the BBC.Mark Tingay (a geophysicist at the University of Adelaide, Australia) stated on Twitter that the mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan were some of the most powerful and destructive in the world. "There are on average several large mud volcano eruptions per year. Many of them can cause huge fires."Tingay stated that most mud volcanoes are located on small islands formed by eruptions. However, some of them are hidden beneath the surface and form temporary peaks over the water when active.Tingay stated that the most recent explosion was confirmed to have occurred at Dashly Island's mud volcano, also known by Ignatiy Stone bank.Original publication on Live Science