Yellowstone National Park’s Volcano Goes Deeper Than Once Thought

Yellowstone National Park

It turns out that Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano goes deeper than previously reported. Scientists have known for a long time about the volcano but really did not know the depth of the volcano or its full power. CBS News even stated that this super volcano has the ability to make the eruptions of Mt. St. Helen’s look weak in comparison. This is quite a powerful volcano with a huge magma reservoir underneath. It appears to be quite a force to be reckoned with based on comments made in the CBS News article. The reservoir that lies approximately 12-28 miles below the surface has been suspected by scientists for a while, but they were not able to have any substantial proof until now. Scientists see this as a missing link between the shallow magma chamber and the mantle plume.

The plume brings up molten rock from deep inside the mantle. Emptying the shallow magma chamber is what would bring about an eruption, so scientists do not believe that this new information indicates an increased risk of eruption. The chamber that is deeper could assist the shallow chamber in replenishing itself, but there has not been a major eruption in 640,000 years, so the risk seems minimal at best. Science Magazine said that people should be more concerned with the chance of earthquakes as they are a lot more likely to occur than an eruption at Yellowstone National Park.

CNN News said that scientists do hope that this new discovery at Yellowstone National Park will help them to better understand the previous eruptions that occurred at this location back in prehistoric times and why they were so massive. This new information could play a key role in explaining the occurrences of the past. The newly discovered magma reservoir has 2.5 times the volume of the Grand Canyon. The magma chamber is very large in size and is fueled by Yellowstone National Park’s heat source, which goes down deep and as far as 440 to 1,800 miles beneath the surface of Earth. While there seems to be hardly any chance of immediate eruption, scientists are determined to use this new data in a positive way and have a better overall understanding of the whole system and how everything works.

CNN News went on to say that the odds of any major eruption at Yellowstone National Park are not very great and that people have a better chance of lightning striking them. Chances are that it will not erupt within the next thousand years or so, but when it does it will be powerful and the whole world will take notice. The potential of it could be even greater than the eruption that occurred over 640,000 years ago. The activity from volcanoes can cause mini earthquakes to occur, as many as 3,000. For this reason, scientists are definitely keeping a close watch on Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano and keeping in mind the new information that is there before them.

In 2003, the park had to close over a serious volcanic situation. Ground temperatures were so high that the park authorities began to fear for people’s safety. The temperature was about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and had the potential to boil tree sap, dry out geysers, burn people’s feet, and even burn up tires because of the melting roads.The park had no choice but to close the park for a period until things calmed down. It was too risky and authorities were not going to take a chance.

Researchers did learn that the magma reservoir is not filled with molten rock but instead the rock is spongy, hot, and contains little bits of molten rock inside according to CBS News. Having bits and pieces of information such as this helps scientists to better see the whole picture and have a better understanding of exactly what they are looking at and how it all works together. The new discovery also explains the amount of CO2 that has been released from the volcano. The crustal magma system as a whole makes more sense to scientists now in that knowing about the existence of the magma reservoir broadens their understanding.

Even though scientists do not feel that there is any real danger of the volcano erupting, an article for CNN News said that if the volcano would ever erupt, we would definitely feel the effects worldwide and not just in areas close it. Yellowstone National Park’s magma reservoir is much greater than anyone expected. Science Magazine added that scientists and researchers are trying to understand how the magma moved in the previous eruptions at Yellowstone National Park and are even trying to create models detailing the magma flow and the new details could help them to do just that. The new discovery could aid them in terms of figuring out the numbers involved. A seismic array is what assisted scientists in making the discovery to begin with and they say that the magma reservoir is about as big as 300 or so Lake Tahoes or even as big in terms of volume as Long Island with miles of hot rock on it. Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano and its magma reservoir may not be in any immediate danger of erupting any time soon, but the new details can only help scientists develop a better understanding.

By Heather Granruth


Science Magazine

CBS News


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