Researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City have discovered another huge reservoir of magma under the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, in addition to the chamber that was already known about (that is 60 km long, 29 km wide, and 5 to 12 km deep). According to experts, the magma present in the two areas would be enough to fill the Grand Canyon more than 11 times. For those who wonder, the Grand Canyon has a volume estimated at 1000 cubic miles. This means that the newly discovered magma deposits contain four times more material than the initial estimations, according to Jamie Farrell, a postdoctoral researcher and one of the authors of the study that appeared in the journal Science on Saturday.
According to the first author of the study, researcher in geology and geophysics Hsin-Hua Huang, the discovery enables scientists to finally understand the complex structure beneath the Yellowstone. The newly found reservoir is located under the chamber whose existence had been discovered a long time ago. He also stated that neither the reservoir nor the chamber is filled solely with molten rock, as one might believe, but with hot rock that has a sponge-like structure, whose holes are permeated by molten rock. While the matter from the upper chamber consists of 9 percent molten rock, the one found in the reservoir only has 2 percent molten rock in it. The advanced techniques used by researchers have enabled them to have a clear view of the volcanic system and locate the magma about 30 miles beneath the surface.
The researchers also state that the system is not necessarily closer to eruption than it was before. Nevertheless, the existence of the deeper reservoir means that the smaller chamber can be refilled continuously. One of the authors of the study mentioned that the existence of this deeper reservoir stands as proof that there is enough material to erupt. According to analysis, the Yellowstone erupted massively 2.1 million (the most violent eruption registered so far), 1.3 million and 640.000 years ago. Thus, there is a high probability for it to do so again in about 90.000 years, although these cannot be considered exact estimations.
The Yellowstone Caldera is considered to be the largest volcanic system in the U.S.A. It has been called a “supervolcano” because it was created by incredibly large explosive eruptions. Up until now, it was believed it consisted of only one single chamber. However, the recent major discovery can help explain many geological phenomena from now on, making it a very important spot for further research.
Image Source: Nationalgeographic
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