Magma under Yellowstone National Park found to be larger than previously thought

Uncategorized By May 06, 2023

A study published in the journal Science has found the magma reservoir lying beneath Yellowstone National Park to be about 30% larger than previously estimated. The research concluded that the magma chamber is 47,000 cubic kilometres in volume, the same as around 17,000 Empire State Buildings. While there is no sign of activity that points towards an imminent eruption, the park is closely monitored due to the history of volcanic activity in the area. Understanding volcanic behaviour is vital in mitigating risks linked with future volcanic activity.

Magma Under Yellowstone National Park Found to be Larger than Previously Thought

Yellowstone National Park is a beautiful place, with forests, geysers, hot springs, and copious wildlife. But beneath the surface, there is something far more extraordinary taking place: a massive magma reservoir that heats the park’s geysers and hot springs.

A new study has revealed that this magma reservoir is considerably larger than previously thought. The findings were published in the journal Science on January 15, 2021. Researchers used a combination of various imaging techniques to estimate the size of the molten rock reservoir that sits beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano.

Background Information

Yellowstone has been attracting geologists for over a century due to its active geothermal systems and its history of massive volcanic eruptions. The volcanic hotspot located beneath Yellowstone National Park has produced three huge eruptions over the past two million years, the most recent occurring about 640,000 years ago.

While it is difficult to predict when the next eruption will occur, scientists have been closely monitoring the volcano for signs of activity. In recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the molten rock chamber that sits beneath the supervolcano.

New Research Findings

The study found that the reservoir of molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is around 30% larger than previously estimated. The team combined data from several different sources, including geophysical data from the park, geochemical data from volcanic rocks in the region, and computer models.

The results show that the magma chamber is 47,000 cubic kilometres in volume, which is equivalent to about 17,000 times the volume of the Empire State Building. While this may sound alarming, the researchers say that the supervolcano is not currently showing any signs of imminent eruption and is considered to be in a “normal” state.

“The Yellowstone volcano is one of the best-monitored volcanoes in the world, and fortunately, right now, we don’t see any evidence that it is going to erupt anytime soon”, said Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study and research professor at the University of Utah.

Implications of the Study

The new research provides a more comprehensive picture of the magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone National Park. According to the researchers, the larger size of the magma chamber may help explain why the geysers and hot springs at Yellowstone are so active.

The study also sheds light on the processes that are involved in the formation of supervolcanoes. Understanding the behavior of such volcanoes is critical in mitigating risks associated with future volcanic activity.

FAQs Section

Q: Is Yellowstone National Park in danger of an eruption?

A: Currently, there are no signs of immediate danger of an eruption. However, the volcano is closely monitored due to its history of volcanic activity.

Q: How often do eruptions occur at Yellowstone?

A: The Yellowstone supervolcano has had three enormous eruptions in the past two million years, with the most recent occurring around 640,000 years ago.

Q: Does the new research mean that we should be more concerned about a Yellowstone eruption?

A: Not necessarily. The findings provide a more detailed understanding of the magma reservoir, but do not necessarily indicate any increase in the likelihood of an eruption.

Q: What are the risks associated with a Yellowstone eruption?

A: The main risks associated with a Yellowstone eruption would be the release of large amounts of volcanic ash and gases, which could cause health problems, disrupt agriculture, and affect transportation and communication networks. Additionally, the immediate area surrounding the supervolcano would be significantly impacted, with devastating effects on wildlife and infrastructure.