The intense, ever-changing geography of Yellowstone National Park has made it a veritable haven for scientists. In fact, at the Seismological Society of America’s annual April meeting in 2013, scientists released evidence that Yellowstone’s vast underground network of volcanic plumbing is far more mighty and powerful than originally thought.
Reports show that the magma reservoir, situated in Yellowstone’s underground volcano, is at least 50-percent larger than previous studies showed. This latest information helps scientists predict the potential damage from an eruption, when this Supervolcano finally explodes.
To break down this scientific discovery into layman’s terms, as the continent that is now North America slowly drifted, it came to rest on a hotspot, which is also known as a plume of hot rock that rises from the Earth’s mantle. As this hotspot came to rest under the area that is now Yellowstone, it left trails of calderas, which were the product of massive volcanic eruptions. These eruptions feature a straight trail, one that extends from Idaho’s Snake River Plain and into Yellowstone National Park. While the last major eruption was more than 640,000 years ago, smaller eruptions have occurred, with the last dating to 70,000 years ago.
The magma chamber that is highlighted in these latest studies is believed to feed the smaller volcanic eruptions and is the primary source for Yellowstone’s hydrothermal geysers and springs. The magma body is similar to someone putting their finger under a silicone mat and pushing upward. While the finger won’t break the surface, the silicone area surrounding the finger becomes distorted and expands.
This new research shows that the underground magma is approximately 37 miles long, three to seven miles deep and 18 miles wide. Previously, scientists did not realize the magma was located in one continuous pocket, but thought it was dispersed into several different pockets under the park.
The magma is shallowest in the northeast region, which is also where the park has intense hypothermal activity. Additionally, scientists believe that molten rock is also located even deeper within Yellowstone’s caldera.
Only time with tell the true extent of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano, as scientists are still studying this geologic hotspot.
Yellowstone Holiday is located near the West entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Offering Hebgen Lake RV sites and West Yellowstone cabin rentals, this prime location is centrally located to West Yellowstone and Big Sky. This resort area also features boating at Hebgen Lake and fishing for avid anglers.