SUPERVOLCANIC MAGMA reservoir BUBBLING under Yellowstone Park

Could fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over

Pic credit: Ann-Marie Mair (@ringlitephotograph)

Geoboffins have claimed that a massive lake of magma found under the Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano could fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over.

The study, published in Science this week, follows from the University of Utah's seismologists discovering and surveying a deeper reservoir of partly-molten rock which lies 12 to 28 miles beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano, which is almost 4.4 times larger than a previously-imaged reservoir.

"The hot rock in the newly discovered, deeper magma reservoir would fill the 1,000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon 11.2 times, while the previously known magma chamber would fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times," said postdoctoral researcher Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study.

"For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone," added first author Hsin-Hua Huang, also a postdoctoral researcher in geology and geophysics. "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."

The boffins urged the public to stop checking their countdown timers for the eruption, and stated that the magma chamber and reservoir are not increasing in size. Rather, they claimed, their study is the product of applying technological advances to Yellowstone which has allowed them to better survey the subterranean contents of the natural hotspot.

"The Yellowstone supervolcano is one of the largest active continental silicic volcanic fields in the world," according to the abstract to the study. "An understanding of its properties is key to enhancing our knowledge of volcanic mechanisms and corresponding risk."

Past studies at Yellowstone discovered that the amounts of carbon dioxide being released within the caldera were more than could be adequately explained by the previously imaged reservoir, which is much closer to the surface. That reservoir had been imaged by a seismic array, which utilised local earthquakes to map out structures in the earth's crust.

To go deeper, the seismologists had to get their hands on the USArray, "a continental-scale seismic observatory" which recorded how seismic waves from more distant earthquakes behaved when passing through the unknown depths beneath Yellowstone.

A National Science Foundation video summarised the study, which allowed the researchers to apply this technique, in use elsewhere, to Yellowstone for the first time.

Back when dismissing apocalyptic claims for 2012 took up most of NASA's time, even it appreciated that a supervolcanic eruption from the Yellowstone cluster would be an enormous catastrophe. Estimations whether such an eruption would be an extinction event are difficult to make before such an eruption occurred. Scientists theorised that the results of such an event would only be clear after the dust had settled. ®

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