Enormous Magma Reservoir Found Under Yellowstone

There's enough to fill 11 Grand Canyons
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2015 3:23 AM CDT
Enormous Magma Reservoir Found Under Yellowstone
This July 2011 photo courtesy of Victoria Mele shows geothermal pools near the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.   (AP Photo/Victoria Mele)

There's enough magma under Yellowstone National Park to fill up the Great Lakes—and then some, according to scientists who say they've taken the best look yet at the "plumbing" system under the volcanic hot spot. The University of Utah researchers used a technique called seismic tomography, which they liken to a CT scan, to detect a vast reservoir of partially molten rock under a smaller one that was already known to exist, reports Reuters. Together, the two chambers make up the world's biggest known magma reservoir, the New Scientist reports. The newly-discovered reservoir has a volume of 11,500 cubic miles, which is more than 11 times the volume of the Grand Canyon, NBC News reports. The study is published in the journal Science.

Scientists say the existence of the vast reservoir, which sits on top of a plume of magma from deep inside the planet, doesn't make a catastrophic eruption any likelier, the Washington Post reports. "The existence of the second magma chamber does not make it any more or less likely that a large volcanic eruption at Yellowstone will occur. These findings do not change the current volcanic hazard at Yellowstone," University of Utah seismologist Jamie Farrell tells Reuters, though he says the findings will help researchers learn more about "how magma moves from the mantle to the surface." The Yellowstone supervolcano last had a calderic eruption around 640,000 years ago, and another one would be "a disaster felt on a global scale," the Post notes. (A live volcano was recently found under Arctic ice.)

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