A procedure called seismic tomography has provided researchers with the opportunity of having a closer look at the volcanic plumbing system hidden underneath the Yellowstone national park. During a recent study, a group of researchers have discovered than deep beneath the national park lies a huge magma reservoir whose existence was not known to the world to date.
For those who don’t know: magma is the term used for the hot semi fluid or fluid material present below the earth’s crust; igneous rocks and lava are formed from this material.
Yellowstone, which overlaps the borders of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and sits on a volcano having the history of as many as three deadly eruptions, is marked by a series of remarkable geometrical features that include steam vents, mudspots, hot springs and geysers.
Scientists were already aware of the presence of a huge magma chamber underneath the national park; it was the magma chamber responsible for causing the three eruptions respectively 640,000, 1.2 million and 2 million years back. The recent expedition marked the discovery of a second magma chamber; this newfound chamber other than being deeper is also 4.5 times bigger.
Jamie Farrel, a seismologist representing the University of Utah, said that the newly discovered chamber doesn’t make Yellowstone’s chances of encountering a volcanic eruption more or less. According to him, the volcanic hazard at the national park remains unchanged in spite of this new discovery.
So, what makes this new discovery important? Farrel said that these fresh findings will provide researchers with information they will need for gathering more knowledge about the process adopted by magma for moving from the Earth’s mantle to its surface.
Fan-Chi Lin, a geophysics and geology professor at the University of Utah said that the newly discovered magma reservoir is located 12-28 miles under Yellowstone. Its volume is 11,500 cubic miles, which is 11.2 times of that of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
As expected, the magma reservoir is filled with hot substances. The scientists involved in the study reported that it is mostly filled with hot, solid, sponge-like rock and also has molten rock in comparatively smaller quantity. According to numbers put up by the scientists, just 2% of the reservoir’s content is completely molten.