Seismologists from the University of Utah have just uncovered a massive reservoir of lava and rock 12 to 28 miles below Yellowstone. It is nearly 4½ times larger than the previously identified magma chamber which is closer to the surface.
Better technology is enabling geologists to uncover deeper secrets which the Earth is hiding in its bowels. The researchers are using a natural phenomenon-Earthquake to unravel the mysteries of inner reaches of the planet.
Yellowstone national park has the distinction of the world’s first national park and with the help of better technologies researchers are developing an ever-increasing understanding of the volcanic system beneath.
Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study describes the enormity of the magma chamber when he said, “The deeper magma reservoir would fill the 1,000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon 11.2 times, while the previously known magma chamber would fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times.”
The magma chamber is 12 to 28 miles deep and 30 to 44 miles across. The magma chamber is fed by a hotspot plume which originates 1,800 miles into the planet at the earth’s core.
Earlier a much smaller magma chamber was identified a couple of years ago and it was 9 miles deep and had a volume of 2500 cubic miles big. It sits just below the Yellowstone caldera. Last year researchers had published studies which showed the reservoir to be 2.5 times bigger than previously thought.
The new magma chamber is being mapped by University of Utah seismologists Fan-Chi Lin, Hsin-Hua Huang, Robert Smith and Farrell worked with Brandon Schmandt at the University of New Mexico and Victor Tsai at the California Institute of Technology
It was long suspected that the magma chamber was much bigger due to the high volume of carbon dioxide released by the Yellowstone’s surface. The carbon dioxide is created from molten and partly molten rock.
The mapping was done by the help of data gathered from numerous earthquakes in the Greater Yellowstone area, a seismically active area.
Huang, first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah said, “For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone.”
Huang used data obtained from seismograph recordings of earthquakes in Utah, Idaho, and the Teton Mountains and in the national park itself. Seismic imaging is much akin to a CAT scan. The only difference is the use of earthquake waves instead of X-Rays.