Science & Technology
Vast lava reservoir found under Yellowstone
April 25, 2015 | 54 comments
Yellowstone sits atop a huge supervolcano. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 David Monniaux
A chamber containing 11,200 cubic miles of molten rock has been found below Yellowstone National Park.
Underneath the ideallic lakes, canyons and forests that make up one of America's most popular tourist destinations lies the beating heart of an apocalyptic behemoth - a supervolcano with the potential to wreak widespread devastation were it to ever erupt.
While there is fortunately no sign that this slumbering beast is planning to do so any time soon, scientists have been busy recording the first three-dimensional images of the volcano's interior in an effort to learn as much as possible about it.
What they've found is that a magma chamber situated around 28 miles below Yellowstone contains a staggering 11,200 cubic miles of molten rock - enough to fill the entire Grand Canyon 14 times over.
This is in addition to a second smaller chamber which contains 2,500 cubic miles of lava.
"Every additional thing we learn about the Yellowstone volcanic system is one more piece in the puzzle, and that gets us closer to really understanding how the volcanic system works," said study co-author Fan-Chi Lin, a geologist from the University of Utah.
"If we could better understand the transport properties of magmatic fluids, we could get a better understanding of the timing and, therefore, where we are in the volcanic cycle."
The last time the volcano erupted was 640,000 years ago however the chances of it happening again in any given year are fortunately quite small at around 1 in 700,000.
Soon it may even be possible to predict exactly when it will happen many years in advance.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
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