Quirks and Quarks

Yellowstone Supervolcano's Mass of Magma

Researchers have found a huge and previously unknown magma chamber under Yellowstone, which may help understand and predict future eruptions.

Discovery of a huge magma reservoir under the Supervolcano

Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic hot springs, one of the features driven by the supervolcano ("Windows into the Earth,” Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel)
The Yellowstone Supervolcano will erupt again, and when it does so the results will be devastating, and far more destructive than any volcano in human memory. 

To better understand and predict these eruptions researchers, including Dr. Jamie Farrell from the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah, have been studying the system using new technologies similar to a seismic CAT scan. 

Their most recent discovery is a long-theorized massive magma chamber that they knew had to be driving some of Yellowstone's activity.  The new chamber is located 20 to 45 kilometres below the surface and is 46,000 cubic kilometres in volume, which makes it over four times larger than the upper magma chamber.  Although the picture of the plumbing of the supervolcano is now clearer, the study does not yet shed light on when the next eruption of Yellowstone will be.

Related Links

Paper in Science
- University of Utah release
Smithsonian Magazine story
- Discovery News story
- Discover magazine story
Washington Post story