Yellowstone Magma Source is Much Bigger Than Previously Thought
Researchers from the University of Utah have uncovered an enormous magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park. According to Senior Science Writer Lee Siegle, the study published today in the journal Science gives the first complete look at the volcano’s plumbing system which may stretch all of the way down to the earth’s Core.
"It's pretty big! The size of it had been thought to be about 1,000 cubic miles, which is roughly the size of the Grand Canyon," Siegle said. "The new study shows that under the previously known magma chamber, there is an even bigger reservoir of magma which is about four-and-a-half times bigger. It would fill the grand canyon about 11 times."
Researchers were able to measure the magma chamber by using the vibrations of three recent earthquakes in a process Siegle compared to a CAT scan. Siegle says the discovery does not indicate that the Volcano is any closer to erupting.
"It doesn't mean it has grown bigger, or is closer to erupting, it just means we are seeing more of it, but it is huge," Siegle said. "It is one of the biggest if not the biggest volcanoes on earth. A major eruption would be... well, catastrophic is too mild a word. The last three eruptions covered most of North America in ash that was inches deep."
Scientists at the University of Utah estimate that the Yellowstone Volcano has a 1 in 700,000 chance of exploding on any given year. Those are pretty slim chances, but then again, it only has to happen once.