Magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park might be even vaster than thought

Beneath one of the most famous touristic attractions in the world, the Yellowstone National Park, there lies one of the largest and most complex volcanic systems in the world. Yellowstone is a supervolcano of perplexing size, but as Utah seismologists found… it may actually be even bigger than previously thought.

“For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone,” said co-author Hsin-Hua Huang, a post-doctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “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.”

A supervolcano is technically defined as any volcano capable of producing a volcanic eruption with an ejecta volume greater than 1,000 km3 (240 cubic miles). Just so you can get an idea, a Yellowstone eruption which took place just over 2 million years ago ejected 2,500 cubic km, while the infamous Mount Helens 1980 eruption only spewed up 0.25 cubic km – 10,000 times less! Needless to say, should Yellowstone erupt, it would be an unprecedented disaster in the history of mankind – a gargantuan event with huge planetary consequences. Naturally, geologists and geophysicists want to understand it as best as possible.

Image via National Geographic.

For this reason, several studies have been undertaken, trying to estimate the extent of the caldera through different methods. Now, scientists from the University of Utah have used a technique called seismic tomography to take a better look at the Yellowstone caldera, and they’ve come up with surprising results: according to their calculations, the caldera is 4.4 times larger than previously thought.

The technique they used is not innovative, although it’s relatively new in the geophysical arsenal of study methods. Seismic tomography is an imaging technique that uses seismic waves generated by earthquakes or controlled explosions to create  computer-generated, three dimensional images of Earth’s interior. The time it takes  for a seismic wave to arrive at a seismic station from an earthquake can be used to calculate the speed along the wave’s ray path. By using arrival times of different seismic waves scientists are able to define slower or faster regions deep in the Earth. There are several material properties which define the wave speed, but under the right circumstances, seismic tomography can reveal deep underground structures – such as the Yellowstone caldera.

“It’s a technique combining local and distant earthquake data better to look at this lower crustal magma reservoir,” Huang says.

A very basic explanation of how seismic tomography works. Image via Northwestern University.

According to their results, the reservoir lies 12 to 28 miles (19 to 45 kilometers) beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano and is more than four times bigger than the magma chamber that is already known to exist. However, this doesn’t really means there’s an increased hazard associated with Yellowstone.

“The actual hazard is the same, but now we have a much better understanding of the complete crustal magma system,” says study co-author Robert B. Smith, a research and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study published online today in the journal Science added:

“The magma chamber and reservoir are not getting any bigger than they have been, it’s just that we can see them better now using new techniques,” Farrell says.

7 thoughts on “Magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park might be even vaster than thought

  1. Arturo Longoria

    revelation from the holy bible seems to refer to a Yellowstone eruption. referring to a great star that falls to the abyss or bottomless pit trumpet #3

  2. Arturo Longoria

    if you will continue to read in #4 trumpet that eruption will cover 1/3 of the earths atmosphere. in #2 we throw something like mountain into the sea, ablaze. in chapter 11 or 10 referring to the prophets or witnesses they have control of the climate it is a spiritual power. men have control of our climate too. so to make it rain we throw in something to help warm the seas (pacific ring of fire) but out of control boils messing up the buoyancy of the ocean causing ships to sink some will be nuke powered ships which will cause a meltdown or blast that will open the ocean floor to cause a whirlpool and drain sea water which will cause the Yellowstone to erupted with blood and so forth. 1/3 of the ships are destroyed. in #2. I in April, 2015 saw a very brilliant meteorite fall from south to north over the eastern horizon splitting into three parts one going up the other going down and the larger middle part keeping its course straight. it would have had to been directed to that region in Wyoming. it is radioactive as in wormwood in #2. is this scenario possible? from may 3rd my lord sent me on spiritual journey and i believe these trumpet events are taking place at this present time. this is what I believe the lord has revealed to me. I heard ship horn s horns several times in my own home and I live in Taft, ca. 125 miles from the nearest port or harbor. hello my name is Art Longoria an American citizen born and raised!

  3. Arturo Longoria

    this is in revelation chapter 8 in the holy bible. ok published a note in my facebook under Arturo Longoria on this subject if care to go there . gods peace be with you. ART

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