Researchers locate huge magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone

The newly discovered reservoir is 11,000 cubic-miles in size, holding enough molten rock to fill 300 Lake Tahoes.
By Brooks Hays  |  April 24, 2015 at 9:51 AM
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SALT LAKE CITY, April 24 (UPI) -- A new look underneath the supervolcano that spans much of Yellowstone National Park has revealed massive reservoir of magma and hot rocks.

Researchers discovered the reservoir while imaging the insides of the supervolcano using a technique called seismic tomography. The images don't reveal an increased risk of eruption, but they do offer scientists a better understanding of the inner workings of a supervolcano.

"For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone," lead study author Hsin-Hua Huang, a researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, said in a press release. "That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below."

Scientists were able to create 3-D images of the volcano's deep-earth plumbing by watching how seismic waves behave as they pass through the layers of molten rock.

The newly discovered reservoir is 11,000 cubic-miles in size, holding enough molten rock to fill 300 Lake Tahoes or 14 Grand Canyons. The chamber is located 12 to 28 miles beneath the surface and is more than four times larger than a shallower, previously discovered chamber.

"Every additional thing we learn about the Yellowstone volcanic system is one more piece in the puzzle, and that gets us closer to really understanding how the volcanic system works," study co-author Fan-Chi Lin, a geoscientist at the University of Utah, told Smithsonian Magazine.

"If we could better understand the transport properties of magmatic fluids, we could get a better understanding of the timing and, therefore, where we are in the volcanic cycle."

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