Scientists Reveal The Inner Workings Of Yellowstone Supervolcano

Posted: Apr 21 2018, 11:23am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 22 2018, 12:57am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Reveal the Inner Workings of Yellowstone Supervolcano
Credit: Joseph Shaw, Montana State University

New study presents a clearer picture of what is happening beneath Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers, calderas, hot springs and other unique geological features. The park attracts millions of visitors every year. But despite its popularity, very little is known about its composition and interior. After using supercomputer modeling, researchers are able to present a clearer picture of the magma bodies of Yellowstone and what is happening beneath its surface.

The crust underneath the park is soft and extremely hot because of the continuous supply of magma. The magma rises from an anomaly called a mantle plume and it is similar to the source of the magma at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. The presence of plume explains why there is so much surface activity in the park. On the other hand, huge amounts of water that fuels the geysers and hot springs act as a coolant and prevent the crust from becoming too hot. In the recent effort, researchers have attempted to understand the size and location of magma bodies below Yellowstone.

The prospect of a transition zone at depths of 5 to 10 kilometers where rocks of the upper crust give way to the hot molten rock below has been strongly debated in recent years. With the help of computer model, researchers show how the zone traps magma and forms a large horizontal body called sill. The sill, which can be up to 15 kilometers thick, separates the partially molten crust above and below into the two magma bodies and these results are consistent with the geophysical observations of the area.

"The results of the modeling matches observations done by sending seismic waves through the area," said co-author Ilya Bindeman, a professor at the University of Oregon. "This work appears to validate initial assumptions and gives us more information about Yellowstone's magma locations."

Yellowstone often erupts quietly with lava flow but it can erupt violently once or twice every million years and form large calderas. The new model can be used to predict when the next eruption might happen and how to deal with it. The last time a Yellowstone eruption occurred was 640,000 years ago.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir. With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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