A giant reservoir of hot, partly molten rock has been discovered beneath the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park. Scientists have revealed that it is 4.5 times larger than the already known magma chamber, existing closer to the surface. Magma stores have always been present bellow the Old Faithful geyser but the newly found magma chamber is much deeper and was not noticed previously. The deeper one spans over 46,000 square kilometers and is located 12 to 28 miles underground. The latest research has been detailed in the journal Science.
Study lead author Hsin-Hua Huang, a postdoctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah (UoU) mentioned “For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone.” Huang added “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.”
However, the researchers emphasized that there is no need to be worried about the new discovery as there is no increased risk of eruption. The finding is expected to help them analyze the park’s geology better. Study co-author Robert B. Smith, a research and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics at the UoU stated “The new study is the missing link between the shallow magma system that we imaged last year and the mantle plume deep in the Earth. By putting in this new body we just discovered, it accounts pretty well for the total of the CO2 that comes out of the system.”
Yellowstone spreads over parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and is among the world’s largest supervolcanoes. Its geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pots attract millions of tourists. Yellowstone’s geysers are powered by the upper magma chamber which was also responsible for three ancient volcanic eruptions which coated much of North America in ash. The new reservoir has been mapped by studying how seismic waves pass through different types of rocks.