Those of you who have wandered among Yellowstone National Park’s 300 active geysers, boiling mud and hissing steam were walking on a magma reservoir large enough to fill the Grand Canyon 14 times. Sobering thought.
Magma is the molten rock that becomes lava when it pours from a volcano.
Geophysicists have marveled over the supervolcano for decades, but a research group from the University of Utah recently scanned its depths using seismic technology and are now marveling even more. According to CNN, scientists from the University of Utah say Yellowstone’s magma reserves are many magnitudes greater than previously though. Most of the magma is from a newly discovered reservoir, featured in a study published Thursday in the journal Science.
It is expected to assist in the explanation as to why Yellowstone’s prehistoric eruptions have been some of the Earth’s largest explosions.
Beneath Old Faithful is a plume of hot rock large enough to fill the Grand Canyon 14 times. Below that the ultimate heat source for Yellowstone reaches down 440 – 1800 miles beneath the surface and may come from the earth’s molten core. It’s job is fueling the newly discovered reservoir on top of it. Lastly, the magma chamber on top of the reservoir is three to nine miles under the earth’s surface and fuels the geysers, puddles and other hot stuff.
Scientists are quick to say that this new discovery does not increase the danger of an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera. They say the yearly chance of eruption is typically 1 in 700,000; about the odds that you will get struck by lightning.
They also say, though, that an eruption will be a world-changing event. Compared to Yellowstone’s past eruptions, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a “picnic” and it covered Washington state with an ash bed about the size of Lake Michigan. The Philippines Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption doesn’t “begin to scratch the surface of Yellowtone’s roar.”
Scientists keep a close eye on Yellowstone. Even to the point of closing the park in 2003 when ground temperatures were recorded at 200 degrees Fahrenheit just a few inches below the surface. They didn’t want people burning their feet or their tires on the melting roads.