Enormous Magma Reserves under Yellowstone May Make be a Ticking Bomb

Yellowstone supervolcano

Yellowstone National Park, famous for its active geysers, could be hiding some astonishing secrets beneath its surface. It has long been known that the park is an enormous supervolcano, and Geophysicists have been trying to study its dynamics for decades. However, the site’s actual scientific significance has only been found through a recent study.

Scientists from University of Utah, by utilizing seismic technology, have claimed that the park’s magma reserves are greater than previous estimates. How great exactly, one may ask? Hot rock underneath the park’s surface is enough to fill the Grand Canyon nearly 14 times over. In addition to the study, scientists also created the first three-dimensional depiction of the geothermal structure under Yellowstone.

The recent findings will prove valuable for the scientific community to better understand why previous eruptions in Yellowstone were some of the Earth’s largest in the last few million years. The study was published in the journal Science on Thursday.

Three to nine miles under the park’s surface, and on top of the recently discovered reservoir, lies the magma chamber. It draws magma from the reservoir and fuels the geysers and hot puddles and has 2.5 times more volume than that of the Grand Canyon.

This is not, however, an indication of an impending doom.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), an eruption in the next few thousand years is extremely unlikely. Utah scientists have put the yearly chance at 1:700,000. These are equal to the odds of you being struck by lightning.

The recent findings also do not mean that the magma reserves have increased.

“The actual hazard is the same, but now we have a much better understanding of the complete crustal magma system,” said researcher Robert B. Smith.

In any case, the Utah researchers are closely monitoring Yellowstone’s magma reserves, as per lead researcher Hsin-Hua Huang. Due to the park’s volcanic activity, almost 2,000 to 3,000 small earthquakes per year are a norm.

The shockwaves of these earthquakes travel at different speeds through molten, hot, and other kinds of rock. This allows scientists to develop a detailed model of the areas beneath Yellowstone’s surface and further the geophysicists’ knowledge of the supervolcano.

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About the author

Drew is a regular contributor covering trending topics.